Five months ago, Zali Steggall was simply a much-loved Olympic slalom skier from Sydney’s Northern Beaches.
Today, she is the subject of countless op-ed articles, front-page hit pieces and an anti-Zali advertising campaign by right-wing advocacy group, Advance Australia.
All because she decided to run against former Liberal Prime Minister Tony Abbott, in his home seat of Warringah.
Ms Steggall describes attempts to liken Labor Leader Bill Shorten’s policies to her own, as “a complete lie from Advanced Australia”.
In fact, she strongly opposes many aspects of Labor’s economic plan, including negative gearing reform.
“I oppose all of Labor’s policies on investment, like negative gearing and dividend imputation for retirees,” she said. “… and I’ve done that from the start.”
Ms Steggall is actually more supportive of the Liberal Party’s economic agenda, such as the tax cuts proposed by Treasurer Josh Frydenberg.
“I support simplifying our tax system. We do highly tax our middle income earners and I do see women struggling to maintain careers and the cost of childcare whilst paying such a high rate of tax – and this has a flow-on effect to workforce participation”.
The main economic point of difference between Ms Steggall and the Liberal Party is climate action.
Although she sees a carbon tax as unnecessary, her commitment to reducing emissions goes far beyond Labor’s policy of a 45 per cent reduction (in 2005 levels) by 2030.
“The reality is that the IPCC said that if we reduce carbon emissions by only 45 per cent, we’d have a fifty-fifty chance of remaining at a one point five degree rise in average temperature. I don’t think fifty-fifty is the best outcome we should be aiming for.
“I would like to see an emissions reduction target closer to 60 per cent.”
Ms Steggall’s enthusiastic belief in climate action is in stark contrast to Tony Abbott’s, who famously called climate science “crap” in 2009.
She has also expressed strong support for LGBT rights, and for softening the country’s stance on offshore detention – both flagships for the progressive agenda that Mr Abbott has consistently opposed throughout his career.
Vote #1 Zali. Your independent voice in parliament. I will work for the Beaches Link tunnel done right, a progressive economy that supports small business and working families, and real action on climate change. I will oppose Bill Shorten’s tax changes for you. #warringahvotes pic.twitter.com/c09XKNdc03
— 💧Zali Steggall (@zalisteggall) April 29, 2019
Ms Steggall’s support for progressive policies has led to accusations that she is formally cooperating with pressure group, GetUp.
An assertion she was quick to clarify.
“I don’t receive money from GetUp and I have my own volunteers. What Getup do, is run their own campaign.
“The views put out as policy are mine and mine alone”.
The wealthy and decidedly blue-ribbon seat of Warringah, is becoming more progressive.
Nearly 80 per cent of residents voted in favour of same-sex marriage in the national plebiscite, and polls show a growing awareness and concern over climate change.
But, is it enough to unseat an incumbent who has ruled Warringah for 25 years?
“I definitely think I can win” Ms Steggall said.
“I don’t take on anything lightly. It’s a big commitment, but it is important to finally give Warringah a choice”. – Lachlan Moffet Gray @LachMg