MALCOLM Turnbull’s all-in support for radical environmentalist Kirsty O’Connell in yesterday’s Upper Hunter by-election has helped deliver victory for the NSW Coalition government.
Prior to the former prime minister throwing his cash and support behind the green independent, Premier Gladys Berejiklian had publicly stated the Coalition would most likely lose the seat – tipping her into minority government.
Just last month Ms Berejiklian said she would need a “miracle”. Then Mr Turnbull appeared.
In the space of days the campaign tide turned from despair to quiet optimism.
By May 22 election day, the Coalition’s National candidate Dave Layzell was dominant, collecting more than 30 per cent of first preference votes.
Pro-mining ALP candidate Jeff Drayton placed second with more than 20 per cent. Other pro-mining candidates – One Nation and Shooters, Fishers & Farmers – took almost 26 per cent of the remaining votes.
The by-election handed pro-mining candidates at least three quarters of first preference votes. While Mr Turnbull’s “close down coal” candidate received just eight per cent.
The Coalition won 56.3 per cent to Labor’s 43.7 in two-party preferred terms.
Ms O’Connell, who hid her social media posts during the campaign, described mineral energy as NSW’s “biggest challenge”.
“This by-election is a good opportunity to act on the biggest challenge, the inevitable transition away from fossil fuels,” Ms O’Connell said prior to her defeat.
The former journalist even demanded the government provide funding to replace the Upper Hunter’s reliance on its coal industry.
Her virtuous extremism was music to the ears of dumped prime minister Malcolm Turnbull, who travelled to the electorate to campaign with her.
“Kirsty won’t sell-out the health of the community in the way the National Party has done, in the way they’ve cuddled up to the big mining companies with no regard to what the people need here,” Mr Turnbull said.
While Mr Turnbull had inadvertently played a significant role in Ms Berejiklian’s victory, the Premier was no idle bystander.
Her gagging of Energy & Environment Minister Matthew Kean, her most radical cabinet colleague, during the campaign also proved critical.
In an act of jaw-dropping self harm, Mr Kean had appointed his friend and mentor Mr Turnbull to head NSW’s Net Zero Emissions & Clean Energy Board.
Eight days later, however, Mr Kean was forced to sack the former prime minister after he had moved to bring a halt to mining licences across NSW.
One Nation’s NSW Leader Mark Latham said at the time that Mr Turnbull’s removal was a win for the people of the Hunter area.
“Fifty-eight per cent of their economic output comes from coal … so to get rid of Malcolm today is a plus, a big plus,” Mr Latham told Sky News anchor Paul Murray.
“Someone who wants to get rid of their jobs is no longer advising the NSW government. It would be better if Matt Kean went as well.”PC