The Greens look set to do something in Peter Costello’s old seat of Higgins that they have often been unable to do: field a high-profile candidate with genuine crossover appeal. Clive Hamilton is certainly not everybody’s cup of tea, but he does have a certain amount of street cred amongst the broader left and the environmental movement. He will also be running against a party in the doldrums both federally and in Victoria, and a Federal Opposition that has a self-destructively schizophrenic position on climate change. The candidate selected by the Liberal Party, former staffer Kelly O’Dwyer, is arguably a sufficiently bland a candidate as to encourage an upset result. One would think that all of these circumstances could conceivably create a situation where even a safe seat like Higgins could become something of a contest. If I were a betting man, I would predict that the result will be closer than the Liberal Party would like, but that they will get over the line.
Federal Labor have elected to do the pragmatic tactical thing and not field a candidate in Higgins – a practice I don’t agree with, but admit makes a certain amount of brutal sense. With another federal election due late next year anyway, and the likelihood of a Labor win relatively low, the potential benefits that might flow from Labor contesting the seat are outweighed by the costs, particularly with a strong Greens candidate now in the mix. Labor have never won the seat of Higgins since its creation sixty years ago.
It’s all a bit incestuous when you think about it. The Greens famously courted Peter Garrett on numerous occasions before his controversial decision during the (pre-explosion) Latham era to join the Labor Party. In years past, high-profile players within the Labor Party organisation seriously entertained the idea of Malcolm Turnbull joining the ALP’s ranks. One does wonder whether Clive Hamilton would be considered an asset as a candidate by the Labor Party. Clearly his strong views on the nature of modern capitalism, climate change and stringent opposition to nuclear power paint him as more of a natural Greens candidate. Leaving aside the much debated travails of Peter Garrett for a moment, just what sort of impact could a few high-profile leftish intellectuals have on the parliamentary Labor party?