The ‘woke’ energy policies of former NSW Liberal treasurer Matt Kean have been blamed for the government’s humiliating election defeat on the weekend.
A Liberal Party insider has told Daily Mail Australia that Mr Kean’s zealous focus on renewable energy had alienated voters who wanted more focus on cost of living pressures than the pre-occupations of wealthy Greens and Teal voters.
‘The reality of why Matt Kean’s not put his hand up the leadership is because it’s untenable because he’s had such a negative impact already,’ he told Daily Mail Australia.
There had been an expectation that Mr Kean would step up to replace outgoing premier Dominic Perrottet, who resigned the Liberal leadership on Saturday night, given he had been deputy leader.
But Mr Kean issued a statement on Sunday afternoon saying he needed to spend more time with his family.
‘I have decided not to throw my hat in the ring for the NSW Liberal leadership,’ he said.
Former NSW Liberal treasurer and energy minister Matt Kean’s (second from the right) ‘woke’ climate policies have been linked with his party losing seats from western Sydney to wealthy areas by the beach
‘I have a young family and I would love to spend a little more time with them.
‘The election result will enable me to do that.
‘Tommy recently turned three and now is the time for me to hang out and be a dad, while also continuing to serve my wonderful Hornsby constituents and the Liberal Party, though not as leader and not as part of the leadership team.’
Mr Kean, who is also the member for Hornsby on Sydney’s upper north shore, had been a fierce advocate for a faster transition to renewable energy – in December pushing a 70 per cent renewable energy target.
A Liberal Party branch president from Sydney’s north, who was not authorised to speak on the record, told Daily Mail Australia that Mr Kean’s renewable energy focus, driven by the left-wing moderate faction, had alienated battlers in western Sydney and coastal retirees more concerned about the cost of living.
‘We’re no longer any different to Labor, and in fact we’re more left than Labor compared with say the right faction within Labor,’ he said.
‘A party that’s basically trying to put itself up as a left-leaning party, when you already have the Greens and you have Labor.
‘Matt Kean is further left than the leader of the Labor Party.’
The Liberal Party insider said Premier-elect Chris Minns, from the ALP’s more centrist right faction, cleverly campaigned on cost of living issues, arguing he was as down to earth as the late former Labor prime minister Bob Hawke.
‘Chris Minns came across as an everyday man that could really relate to people,’ he said.
Outgoing Premier Dominic Perrottet was described as an ‘elitist’ – like Mr Kean – from a Sydney north shore seat.
A Liberal Party insider has told Daily Mail Australia Mr Kean’s zealous focus on renewable energy had alienated voters worried about the cost of living, from battlers in the suburbs to retirees by the beach (he is pictured centre right with outgoing Environment Minister James Griffin, outgoing metropolitan roads minister Natalie Ward and North Shore MP Felicity Wilson)
‘The reality is he didn’t come across as an everyday person or a mainstream Australian and looked elitist from my perspective,’ the insider said.
Another Liberal Party member from the South Coast – where the Liberal Party lost the seats of Kiama and South Coast – said the party had mistakenly tried to win over Greens voters who would never support them.
‘They’re going about it the whole wrong way with a completely false strategy,’ he told Daily Mail Australia.
‘The results speak for themselves. The party has lost all its principles, it’s gone more woke than the Greens, it’s just basically ruined itself.
‘What opposition do they now pose to the Greens and Labor?’
The Liberal Party at a federal level last year lost another three previously safe seats on Sydney northern beaches, north shore and eastern suburbs seats to ‘teal’ independent candidates focused on tackling climate change.
Mr Kean, a leading Liberal Party moderate, led the effort to keep these disaffected Liberal voters in wealthy beachside electorates where the environment is a bigger concern than the cost of living.
Two days before Christmas, he announced a dramatic 70 per cent emissions reduction target by 2035, as most Australians battle higher electricity bills with more increases expected.
Matt Kean issued a statement on Sunday afternoon saying he needed to spend more time with his family (he is pictured with his son Tommy who has recently turned three)
‘Days like today deliver real action to benefit the economy and the environment,’ Mr Kean said.
The backdrop was the ultra-wealthy suburb of Manly on the northern beaches where the median house price is more than $3million – almost triple Sydney’s $1.2million median.
To make the point, Mr Kean was flanked by Liberal candidates and MPs from the party’s left-leaning moderate faction.
But the strategy backfired, as the appeal to the climate-conscious well-to-do alienated many more voters than it attracted, even in those wealthier areas.
Jordan Lane, running in the northern Sydney seat of Ryde in retiring minister Victor Dominello’s old seat, suffered a 9.6 per cent swing against him and is in danger of losing to Labor with a count underway.
The electorate had been Liberal-held since a 2008 by-election.
In western Sydney, the swing was even worse with the Liberal Party losing Parramatta with a 15 per cent swing against them after preferences.
The big swings against the Liberal Party were widespread, with Labor getting a 13 per cent swing in the wealthy Central Coast seat of Terrigal, making an ALP gain there a real possibility.
The swing in the South Coast electorate was an even bigger 15 per cent to Labor.
The Liberal Party’s ambitious climate change policies didn’t protect it from independent challengers.
Two days before Christmas, he announced a dramatic 70 per cent emissions reduction target by 2035, as most Australians battle higher electricity bills with more increases expected
Former health minister Brad Hazzard’s old seat of Wakehurst has fallen to Northern Beaches Mayor Michael Regan, while retiring planning minister Rob Stokes’ old electorate of Pittwater has possibly gone to environmental campaign Jacqui Scruby.
Just weeks before Saturday’s state election, the Australian Energy Regulator determined NSW electricity bills would rise by 22 per cent during the next financial year, equating to a $463 increase.
Making matters worse, the coal-fired Eraring power station on Lake Macquarie near Newcastle is slated for closure in August 2025, which would reduce the available wholesale supply of electricity.
During the election campaign, Mr Minns floated the idea of buying back the Eraring power station to keep a lid on power price rises, cleverly positioning Labor as more pragmatic on energy security than the now green-friendly Liberals.
Michael Photios, a powerbroker within the Liberal Party’s moderate faction which has driven the party into political irrelevancy on the mainland, runs Premier National, a lobbying firm.
The Liberal Party insider from the north shore, who is factionally unaligned, said this nexus between Mr Photios and the party influenced who could run as a candidate.
Outgoing Premier Dominic Perrottet was described as an ‘elitist’ – like Mr Kean – from a Sydney north shore seat (the outgoing Premier is pictured with his wife Helen conceding defeat)
‘What’s really interesting is – and people are not realising this – the left faction which is driven by Matt Kean and others is in control of the federal and state party rooms and its preselections.’
Hornsby Mayor Philip Ruddock, whose local government area overlaps with Mr Kean’s state seat, declined to run for the NSW Liberal leadership.
‘I do know him and I do know him well, I know he’s only recently been in a relationship which has given him a young son and I think he is very conscious of his personal relationship,’ the Liberal Party’s former NSW president told Daily Mail Australia.
‘I understand the difficulties that he has; my wife will frequently remind me that I was so long in politics that it was a very heavy burden that she had to shoulder bringing up two young daughters.’
Mr Ruddock, who was a Liberal member of federal Parliament from 1973 to 2016, said cost of living issues were a concern, making it ‘extraordinarily difficult’ for the state Liberal Party to retain seats where the local member was retiring.
In a sign of a possible way forward, the Liberal Party’s right-wing member for Badgerys Creek in Sydney’s west, Tanya Davies, bucked the election trend and had a 1.7 per cent swing to her, and was rewarded for speaking out against lockdowns and vaccination mandates.
James Griffin, from the moderate faction, was shaping up as a possible leadership candidate against Alister Henskens from the right, but he has since ruled himself out of the race.
Labor has returned to power after 12 years in the political wilderness, with Mr Minns only the fourth NSW Labor leader to win from Opposition since the height of World War II in 1941.
Daily Mail Australia has sought comment from Mr Kean.
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