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Teal candidates and the Catholic vote

  • 23 May 2022
Perhaps the most dramatic individual result of the Federal election was that Menzies’s seat, Kooyong, has fallen to a Teal independent, Dr Monique Ryan. Xavier College sits in the Kooyong electorate, and Dr Ryan is a parent at the College.

Dr Ryan proved to be an impressive candidate who ran as a good a local campaign as I have ever seen. It was marked by a strong engagement by many locals, and especially among professional women, and older residents. The campaign also affirmed that people can make a difference to the process through their involvement.

The impressive nature of the result is not simply measured by the profile of her opponent, the outgoing Australian treasurer, Mr Josh Frydenberg, but because, at least in my view, he himself was an excellent local member, who fought a determined campaign. Mr Frydenberg had engaged well with local schools, charities, small businesses and sports organizations, even when the demands of office were so high. He was also an outspoken voice against antisemitic views that can still afflict our society.   I suspect history will judge him highly for his contribution to Australia during the pandemic. He deserves to be recognized for his service, and in the words of Labor stalwart, Graham Richardson, he will be a great loss to the Australian Parliament.

Dr Ryan’s victory was part of a bigger picture in this election, particularly in the victory of Teal independents in six seats (to which we could add the victory of independent  incumbents in Indi and Warringah). For the Liberal party, here in Kooyong and in the adjoining seats, the fall of seats to Teal and Labor candidates, not only means a loss of talent, but a blow to diversity within the Party – a married gay man, a woman born in China, a female doctor and the most senior  Jewish figure in Parliament.

The rise of Teal independents, along with some Labor successes in neighbouring seats, marks some very significant frustration in traditional Liberal heartlands with a seeming paralysis around climate policy. There is undoubtedly a perception of alienation of many women from the processes of the Liberal Party. Both these points would be made widely by analysts. I would also argue that there has been a long-term erosion of support among traditional Liberal voters around the refugee issue and concerns about policy towards our first peoples, and that there may be a religious dimension to this.