Liberal candidates under pressure from Greens and Independents have dropped Liberal logo for ‘modern Liberal’ tag

Dave Sharma and Kerryn Phelps
Liberal candidate Dave Sharma is aiming to pry eastern Sydney seat of Wentworth away from independent MP Kerryn Phelps. Photograph: Dean Lewins/AAP

They’re billing themselves as the Modern Liberals. Which begs the question who are the old-school Liberals?

Dave Sharma, the Liberals’ candidate for Wentworth in Sydney’s east, and Tim Wilson, the member for Goldstein, covering Melbourne’s bayside suburbs, have both begun postering their electorates with corflutes that carry the tagline, “modern Liberal”.

More moderate Liberals are expected to follow suit in city electorates that are under pressure from independents and Greens, who are running on platforms of doing more about climate change.

Sharma’s posters don’t even carry the usual Liberal party logo.

With an election called this morning, Sharma, who lost to independent Kerryn Phelps in a byelection six months ago, has begun commandeering high-profile telegraph poles throughout Wentworth.

Asked about the “modern Liberal” tag, Sharma insisted it was not about distinguishing himself from other elements of his party.

“It’s really just about who I am,” he said.

“In the byelection, there was a sense of, ‘we just don’t know who you are’. But now people know me a bit better and they know my views and outlook are forward- looking, pragmatic and focussed on the future problems.”

With just 1,850 votes separating Sharma and Phelps in the byelection, Wentworth is one of the seats the Liberals could win back at the election.

At Phelps’ campaign headquarters, the “modern Liberal” tag was met with derision.

“The self-described ‘Modern Liberals’ are attacking electric vehicles as a Soviet-style conspiracy yet say nothing about the Adani coalmine being approved by their own government. Bring on a climate change election,” Phelps posted today.

As for “modern Liberals”, Phelps said it was just an attempt to rebrand Sharma after the byelection “because small-L liberals are still frustrated with the direction of the Liberal party”.

Sharma insisted that the contrast between modern and old school was actually within Labor.

“[Labor] are offering a retroactive agenda: attacks on the middle class, self-funded retirees, negative gearing and small business,” he said. “Shorten’s Labor is a pre-Hawke/Keating outlook. It’s not a reformist party.”

Sharma said the economy was a big issue with Wentworth voters. Some 8,500 retirees receive franking credit payments that Labor plans to curtail, while 13,000 people are in the top tax bracket, he said.

But Labor’s candidate, Tim Murray, said he was prepared to defend and promote Labor’s proposed changes to negative gearing and franking credits because they were “the right policies” and the savings would be reinvested in the party’s Medicare initiatives to fund the gap on cancer treatments and promote early diagnosis.

“The current franking credit payment is a subsidy that is no longer necessary. It’s a subsidy to an asset class and people can add and subtract assets as the market changes. In fact, it encourages retirees to hold the wrong class of assets – risky shares,” he said

Murray said Sharma was misrepresenting the impact of negative gearing on the construction industry because Labor intended to continue to allow negative gearing on new dwellings.

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