The successful campaign to remove former Liberal prime minister Tony Abbott from his Warringah seat during the 2019 Federal Election is being replicated in other electorates.
A 30-year-old pilot from Thirlmere in the Hume electorate’s north-eastern corner – who has avoided politics until now – is behind the grassroots independent movement to oust his Liberal member and the Minister for Energy, Angus Taylor.
Alex Murphy followed the Vote Tony Out campaign and wondered why there wasn’t similar action to remove Mr Taylor.
He set about canvassing local voters in 2020 through the Voices of Hume group. He found others were unhappy with the MP’s energy, climate and emissions reduction policies and involvement in the GrassGate, WaterGate and Clover Moore controversies.
Within three months, the campaign has attracted 350 subscribers and gained momentum by selling T-shirts, face masks and tote bags through social media, emails and meetings.
Its first meeting in Wollondilly on 17 April attracted between 50 and 60 people. The next Vote Angus Out meeting is scheduled for 30 May in Goulburn.
Vote Angus Out campaigners are mostly farmers and retirees who disapprove of many of the MP’s decisions, including his support for fracking on farmland and lack of support for the dairy industry, increasing the age pension and encouraging Australian-based industry.
“He’s there to represent the gas and oil industries first and foremost,” Mr Murphy said.
Mr Murphy believes there is more support for Mr Taylor’s removal, assuming retirees only represent the campaign’s demographic because they have more time on their hands.
He also bases subscriber numbers on social media follows and email opens. However, if retirees are the true campaign demographic, there would be many who don’t use social media or email.
“People are getting sick of the same old things happening, and a lot of retirees see it as a way to leave something for their children and grandchildren,” Mr Murphy said.
Mr Murphy said he’s confident Mr Taylor will be gone by the next federal election and is seeking advice from Vote Tony Out campaigners.
“It makes our job a lot easier to have a politician who is so easily targeted. His inaction on climate change and emissions reduction, and the fact he’s been implicated in a number of scandals, make him an easy target,” he said.
Mr Taylor was also recently voted the most incompetent cabinet member in the Morrison Government in a poll conducted by The Australian Financial Review.
On the other hand, Mr Murphy recognises that the Hume electorate is a safe Liberal seat.
“It will be a challenge to convince people not to vote for him, but at the same time, it’s certainly going to be a lot easier for us to convince people not to vote for Angus than not to vote for a lot of other politicians,” he said.
That’s why the Vote Angus Out campaign is also focusing its efforts on finding a strong independent candidate.
“The problem is, a lot of the big parties are just as bad at taking large donations from fossil fuel companies. We really want to put forward someone who isn’t going to be beholden to those big donors,” Mr Murphy said.
Similar campaigns are also on the hunt for independents to challenge the Liberal member for North Sydney, Trent Zimmerman, and the Liberal member for Bradfield, Paul Fletcher. Both seats neighbour Tony Abbott’s former seat of Warringah.