Frydenberg is widely seen as the liberal most likely to rise to the top job after Scott Morrison, but the current race puts years of hard work in jeopardy.
Yet the Liberal deputy leader, who has been in parliament for 12 years, seems determined to try to wear down his rivals, shaking enough hands to earn three more years in the job.
However, the lines about cashed-in political benefactor Simon Holmes at Court and the existential risk of a hung parliament after May 21 will not obscure what is happening here in the heart of Melbourne’s affluent east – Frydenberg is struggling and every last vote will count.
Nearby Kew Junction, huge digital billboards with a simplified campaign message tower over a barricaded pub. “Keep the economy strong” one says. “Guard Josh.”
“Keep young people employed” adjacent sign flashes to traffic below. “Keep school funding high. Keep Josh.
The advertisements are the latest round in the Kooyong billboard battle. Each major Electorate road has multiple signs, from the Yarra River at Studley Park, through Kew, Hawthorn and Camberwell, to Surrey Hills.
The brilliant real estate signs of the Frydenberg team are everywhere. Near a private school, an Adolf Hitler-style mustache was concealed on a sign, along with printed paper, alleging “VANDALISM by Monique Ryan supporters”. The Ryan campaign estimates it has signs outside 2,500 homes.
Asked if his colleagues might worry about a potential future Liberal leader being beaten by a 54-year-old political newcomer, Frydenberg said the opposition campaign was “nothing more than a clever and extremely well-funded slogan, billboard and social media campaign”.
It highlights key issues of local and national debate, including economic management, climate change and a federal anti-corruption agency. “There are no details on the costs for his 60% [carbon reduction] target. And on the integrity commission, she can’t justify their bill contrary to the concerns I have about that aspect.
Ryan spoke in detail, including 48 hours earlier as she met locals outside a supermarket perched above Burke Road.
“It was traditionally a safe liberal seat,” she says between selfies with shoppers and a conversation about women’s safety with a concerned parent. “Granted when I grew up Kooyong was really a safe Conservative seat, but there have been changes over time. Where I live in Hawthorn there is now a green councilor and a member of the Labor state.
People are not happy with this
“There has been a small change in the way people feel. They believe that the current government does not reflect the traditional liberal values of the electorate in many ways, and they resent that.
Ryan says demographic shifts in the electorate are contributing to the new political landscape. No less than 5,000 young people have been added to the electoral lists in 2022. “It is also the first time that we will have more millennials than baby boomers voting in Kooyong. This could also have an impact. »
After Frydenberg’s seven years in cabinet, including four as treasurer, Ryan says Kooyong voters are considering an alternative.
“You know what you’re going to get with him for another three years, and people aren’t happy about that.
“People want action on climate change, and they want action on an anti-corruption commission. We were promised these things before the last election, and they weren’t delivered,” she says. “We have the impression that he is a member of a minority government, which is essentially ransomed by the National Party.”
Pollster and former Labor Party official Kos Samaras is watching the race closely. His firm, RedBridge Group, is a consultant for certain independent candidates.
“The Coalition’s response to the Teal candidates is similar to how they would have fought the Labor Party in a particular seat. These are the tough times, using machine politics and process stories, to try and crush your opponent.
Voters have lost faith in the Liberals
“What the Liberal Party has not yet understood is that its problem is not whether these candidates are genuinely independent, whether they have a history with the Labor Party, the Greens or the Liberal Party.
“Their problem is with the voters and the voters have lost faith in the Liberal Party and feel that the Liberals do not represent their values. This is the same problem Labor had with the Greens. We did all kinds of assessments over a 15-year period to determine why we had a problem. It was a matter of politics, what we stood for.
Samaras says Teal candidates should be treated seriously, not faced with college-style politics, portraying potential Teal voters as economically dry, progressive on social issues and driven by climate change.
He likens the teal movement to American-style political action committees, known as super PACs — the sometimes obscure campaign groups that pool donations and mobilize for or against candidates and issues.
In Kooyong, he sees strong demographic shifts helping Ryan and the Climate 200 cause. “At this point, it’s 50-50. So far, all the data points to a strong Independent vote and a declining Liberal vote.
The Victoria Liberals acknowledge the race is tight, but some expect Frydenberg to win. It would set him up for a fight with Peter Dutton for the Liberal leadership, should Morrison lose to Anthony Albanese.
Frydenberg deflects when asked what his next term in parliament might look like, despite having publicly stated in the past that he longs for The Lodge.
Ryan doesn’t think voters are looking too far beyond the current campaign. Far from her old life as a doctor at the Royal Children’s Hospital, she has a lot of fun during the hustings.
“My learning curve has been amazing, I would say the last three or four months have been the most exhausting, exhilarating and interesting thing I’ve ever done in my life,” she says. “It would be such a privilege to be the person representing Kooyong. I realized all the good I could do.
The Prime Minister was asked on Thursday if he could negotiate with Teal independents if the Coalition were to fail on election day. Electing them was a vote for “parliamentary chaos,” Morrison warned.
More foreclosures in the short term
“That’s the threat they pose to Australia’s security and economy,” he said. “It’s the threat I’m concerned about, and that’s why I think it’s important for people to think carefully about their choice.”
Kooyong voter Hilary Young says Australia’s recent politics have left her cynical. She supports Ryan.
“There’s a lot of self-interest and self-promotion. So someone who stands up because she thinks it’s the right thing to do when she’s highly respected and has huge experience in her own profession is very refreshing.
“We need future planning, not short term grabs and vote buying. Not just throwing money at problems, but thinking about them and doing things sensibly. We need community engagement and expert advice on big issues.
Henk Kelly-Kobes, president of the Camberwell Traders Association, praised Frydenberg’s commitment saying, “It’s a close race. It will depend on where Josh’s first preferences come from. He must obtain at least 48% of the first votes to survive.
“It could go either way, but I think there are a lot of people making noise about Monique Ryan, but as far as the actual day goes, they may decide not to.”
With countless other calls to go, Frydenberg makes sure to look determined.
“I’m always ready to fight,” he said. “The only thing I’m focused on right now is winning my seat and helping the Coalition cross the line. The rest will work out. »