Former ABC reporter Zoe Daniel to fight Liberals on climate and integrity

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Former ABC reporter Zoe Daniel to fight Liberals on climate and integrity

By Miki Perkins

High-profile former ABC journalist Zoe Daniel is no stranger to the ravages of climate change.

She has travelled to the Arctic and seen the melting permafrost and rocky shores where the sea ice is in rapid retreat.

As a journalist, Zoe Daniel covered the effects of climate change around the globe.

As a journalist, Zoe Daniel covered the effects of climate change around the globe.

In her 30 years at the ABC, including three stints as a foreign correspondent, the last as US bureau chief in Washington, Daniel covered bushfires in California, the aftermath of super storms in south-east Asia, hurricanes in the US and cyclones in the Pacific.

Daniel, who left the ABC in 2020, will stand as an independent for the blue-ribbon Melbourne bayside seat of Goldstein at next year’s federal election.

“I look at my kids and the friends they bring home and I think what’s life going to look like for you guys if none of us actually do anything?” she told The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald. “If not us, then who? And if not now, when?”

“The people of Goldstein know that that’s happening too, and they really want more substantive policy on this,” she said. “It remains a moral issue, but it’s also now an economic issue if we want to continue the prosperity that we’ve had in Australia.”

Member for Goldstein Tim Wilson.

Member for Goldstein Tim Wilson.Credit:Dominic Lorrimer

Running on a “climate and integrity” platform, supported by local non-aligned community group Voices of Goldstein, Daniel says she draws inspiration from campaigns won by independents Cathy McGowan and Zali Steggall.

The 48-year-old Hampton resident is the latest in a clutch of climate and integrity-focused female independent candidates who threaten the Liberal hold on inner-urban seats, including Allegra Spender in Wentworth, and Kylea Tink in North Sydney.

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Goldstein, which includes the suburbs of Brighton, Hampton, Bentleigh and Elsternwick, is held by Liberal MP Tim Wilson, (currently the assistant minister to the Minister for Industry, Energy and Emissions Reduction), on a margin of just under 8 per cent.

Daniel, who is married with two children – a son Arkie, 14, and daughter, Pearl, 13 – was approached to run by Voices of Goldstein, which formed in 2020. Its focus on climate change, integrity in politics and action on equality and workplace safety for women struck a chord with Daniel.

Zoe Daniel is running as an independent in the blue ribbon seat of Goldstein, currently held by Tim Wilson.

Zoe Daniel is running as an independent in the blue ribbon seat of Goldstein, currently held by Tim Wilson.Credit:Simon Schluter

“My main concern [with the federal government] is that nothing is proactive, everything is reactive,” she said. “There’s a sense of the government being dragged kicking and screaming to where they should be.”

Her family discussed her candidacy for a month before enthusiastically agreed to support her. “My 14-year-old son said to me, ‘Mum, you know, you can change something for us by stepping up to that table’,” she said.

Daniel had planned to reveal her candidacy – and its teal-coloured “Zoe for Goldstein” T-shirts - at public event on Saturday, but had to bring the announcement forward a day after her name was leaked to the media.

Her campaign is supported by Ms McGowan, who she met 30 years ago when she was a rural reporter for the ABC. She is also supported by former Liberal party leader John Hewson and Ian McPhee, who represented the electorate and was a minister in the Fraser government.

Ms Daniel has never been a member of a political party and says she built a career on her reputation for objectivity in journalism. She describes herself as a swinging voter who assesses each candidate on their policies before voting. In 2016, she voted for Mr Wilson.

But four years of covering the chaotic and divisive presidency of Donald Trump (covered in her book Greetings from Trumpland) has left her concerned about emerging parallels in the Australian parliament.

“You end up with an opportunistic mobilisation of fear, and it makes it more and more difficult for people to talk to each other,” she says.

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And Daniel says her experience as a journalist has left her well placed to talk to people who might hold different views to her own, which might be helpful in Canberra. “I’m capable of looking at things through different sides of the prism to see several different points of view”.

Ms Daniel’s campaign has raised about $100,000 through donations in the community so far. Like other grassroots independent groups, they have received “funding-matching” support from Climate 200, the non-profit group led by clean energy analyst and investor Simon Holmes a Court.

Mr Wilson said he was a “proud and passionate” Liberal that would take a platform to an election, and said “puppet independents” voted with the “extreme Greens” more than 70 per cent of the time in Parliament.

“Every election there’s single issue candidates hoping they can get a hung parliament to create uncertainty and hold the nation hostage; this puppet candidate is no different and we know there’s shadowy Labor and Greens activists yanking their strings.”

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