Ka-ching: How Dutton’s climate stance is helping the groups he opposes

A climate lobby group that backed successful independents at the last federal election has experienced a 20-fold increase in donations since the opposition leader came out against emission reduction targets.

Jun 13, 2024, updated Jun 13, 2024
Leader of the Opposition Peter Dutton. (AAP Image/Nikki Short)

Leader of the Opposition Peter Dutton. (AAP Image/Nikki Short)

Small individual donations worth almost $950,000 have come in over the past six weeks but there was a major increase in the past weekend, Climate 200 billionaire founder Simon Holmes a Court said.

Peter Dutton attack on the targets for 2030 and 2035 made his job easier, he said, with the climate group set to back 30 independents in next year’s election.

“People are frustrated, but I tell you what, they’re white hot after Mr Dutton’s reversal on climate,” Holmes a Court told ABC radio on Thursday.

Climate 200 is now considering backing an independent candidate in Dutton’s marginal greater Brisbane-based seat of Dickson.

“We could very much see a community campaign in Peter Dutton’s seat, that would be very interesting,” Holmes a Court said.

Incumbent independents will also be backed in “hard”.

There was also a community upswell in the southern ACT seat of Bean, on the back of “a Pocock effect”, and voters there were looking for a strong independent candidate.

But taking Bean would be a hard task with Labor MP David Smith holding the seat with a margin of almost 13 per cent.

Meanwhile, an academic has warned the coalition’s strategy on climate targets threatens a repeat of its painful 2022 electoral losses to independent candidates.

Dutton’s plan to abandon the current 2030 emissions reduction target – while promising to announce a new target if he becomes prime minister – could alienate voters because climate change has consistently been one of the top three issues in recent elections, Dr Andrew Hughes said.

That’s especially true in the inner-city seats needed by the Liberals, said Hughes, an Australian National University academic who specialises in political marketing and advertising.

“I don’t think he will get into office because he needs to win the moderate seats back somewhere,” he told AAP.

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Teal independents who unseated Liberal moderates in inner Sydney and Melbourne seats at the last election already see an opportunity in Mr Dutton’s rhetoric on climate change.

Even if the coalition won seats, it would still likely need independents to form a minority government, Dr Hughes said.

“Where do they get the numbers from? I can’t really see them getting enough independents across the line to form government,” he said.

Dutton rekindled the embers of Australia’s climate wars when he attacked the government’s renewable energy plan.

He’s argued Labor can’t achieve its target to cut emissions by 43 per cent by 2030, saying it would drive up power prices in the interim.

Dutton is pinning his hopes on his plan to build about six nuclear reactors across Australia.

But he is yet to unveil any details after promising full costings months ago.

He has also insisted he remains committed to net-zero emissions by 2050.

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese says Australia has a responsibility to neighbouring countries to have a strong climate target.

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