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Political forces back independent candidates in climate change power bid

A well-connected network of philanthropists, activists and political operatives plans to support independents gunning for Liberal seats in Sydney and Melbourne in next year’s federal election, hoping to increase climate action by shifting the balance of power in Parliament.

Liberal Party MP Dave Sharma on the night of his victory for the seat of Wentworth in 2019.

Liberal Party MP Dave Sharma on the night of his victory for the seat of Wentworth in 2019. Credit:Louise Kennerley

Among seats being considered by Climate 200, the group founded by Simon Holmes à Court, are North Sydney, Wentworth and Mackellar in Sydney, and Goldstein and Flinders in Melbourne.

Mr Holmes à Court said the group will announce the make-up of its own advisory council in the coming weeks. The council will include three former politicians as well as an experienced political strategist to help select candidates to support.

It is already in talks with some candidates on shortlists for support in some seats.

Mr Holmes à Court, a clean energy analyst and investor, said the group would consider backing independents who demonstrated that they had a chance of winning due to legitimate local support and were determined to act on climate change and support a federal integrity commission.

Candidates it backed would receive fundraising assistance, strategic campaigning advice and legal support from Climate 200.

He said the group’s own research, as well as polling released last week by the Australian Conservation Foundation, demonstrated that there were enough voters in some Liberal seats who would not vote for Labor or the Greens but would support a moderate independent determined to act on climate.

Comparing MPs from the moderate side of the Liberals to MPs known for their support for fossil fuel industries he said, “whatever Trent Zimmerman and Dave Sharma may believe or say in the party room, they have exactly the same voting record on climate change as Barnaby Joyce and Craig Kelly.”

Mr Sharma, the member for Wentworth – the seat once held by Malcolm Turnbull and lost to the Liberals for a time to independent Kerryn Phelps – responded that he was proud to have voted with his Nationals colleagues to pass waste reduction legislation and increase funding to the Australian Renewable Energy Agency.

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