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Allegra Spender and Dave Sharma
Allegra Spender/Facebook; Dave Sharma/Facebook

Politics with Michelle Grattan: Dave Sharma, Allegra Spender, and Kerryn Phelps on the contest for Wentworth

Politics with Michelle Grattan: Dave Sharma, Allegra Spender, and Kerryn Phelps on the contest for Wentworth

In the Wentworth Project, sponsored by the University of Canberra’s Centre for Change Governance and The Conversation, we are tapping into voters’ opinions in this seat, which appears to be on a knife edge.

In this podcast we talk with the two main candidates, Liberal incumbent Dave Sharma and “teal” independent Allegra Spender, as well as with Kerryn Phelps, the former independent member in the seat, who has mentored Spender and is on the advisory council of Climate 200, which is donating to her campaign.

Sharma says “Kerryn Phelps was a genuine independent candidate or a more traditional independent candidate. […] This independent candidate is really sort of a franchise or party operation.”

Sharma casts the teals, who are challenging Liberals in a range of city seats, as reflecting “populism as a political force”.

“People think populism only belongs to the right because of Donald Trump. I think the independents are basically harnessing a populist mood, which is similar to what Donald Trump did, which is ‘a curse on all your houses.’”

Morrison is not campaigning in the teal seats (though he goes to Wentworth to visit his mother). Asked how much the Prime Minister is a drag on the vote, Sharma stresses the team. “Scott Morrison is the leader of our team and the spokesperson for the team. But it’s also got a range of ministers in there who control different portfolios and we’re putting ourselves forward, and I certainly am here, as a team.”

Spender says “there’s a feeling amongst the community that I hear, that they feel that the parties are looking after themselves first and the community after”.

On a possible hung parliament, she says, “I would be willing to work with either party, or major party on supply and confidence, because I want stable government”. She would talk first to whichever side had the greatest number of seats.

Wentworth is seeing enormous spending. Spender says her campaign will probably spend between $1.3 and $1.5 million (with something under 30% expected to come from Climate 200).

She favours caps on spending and donations. “I’d like to see a cap in what individuals or companies can give. I’d like to see real time information in terms of what has been given. And then I think at the same time, you need to look at political advertising and how that is used because the government just spent $30 million spruiking their clean energy credentials […] immediately before the election being called.”

Kerryn Phelps says of Wentworth: “I’ve had a medical practise in Double Bay for around two decades, and so I know the community well. It’s generally seen as an affluent community, but it’s actually quite diverse. There are clearly strong beliefs about the economy and business. And so a candidate would need to have business experience. But the people also have a very strong social conscience. They’re very environmentally aware. And I think that’s particularly highlighted by the fact that it’s bounded by the harbour and the ocean.”

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