After hours spent in apparent denial, Josh Frydenberg has at last conceded his defeat in the election with a message to his opponent.
Outgoing federal treasurer Josh Frydenberg has at last conceded to independent Monique Ryan in Kooyong, having previously clung to the faint hope that postal votes would save him.
“Today I rang Dr Monique Ryan to congratulate her on the election result in Kooyong and wished her well for the term ahead,” Mr Frydenberg said in a statement this afternoon.
“It has been an incredible privilege to have served as the local member for the last 12 years.
“To the people of Kooyong, I can only say thank you.”
In a video message posted on social media, Mr Frydenberg said he looked forward to “spending more time with my beautiful family”.
In a social media post of her own, Dr Ryan confirmed she had “just received a call from Mr Frydenberg”. She will make a statement shortly.
As the election results rolled in, Mr Frydenberg had acknowledged it would be “very difficult” for him to beat Dr Ryan, though before this afternoon he insisted it was “mathematically possible”.
He was waiting for postal votes to be counted on the off chance they could carry him to a comeback win.
“I think that’s really unlikely,” Dr Ryan told News Breakfast this morning.
“It does seem pretty clear on the numbers we’ve seen so far that the treasurer has lost the seat of Kooyong and I have won it.”
Asked why she’d won it, her answer began with a single word: “Community.”
“I put together a campaign that was based on community. More than 2000 people came to the campaign, and we knocked on more than 55,000 doors together, every knockable door in Kooyong. We listened to what people wanted, we listened to their values and their desires, and we put together a platform that reflected those,” said Dr Ryan.
“I think that Mr Frydenberg didn’t appreciate the extent to which there was disaffection within the community of Kooyong at many aspects of the government’s actions.”
She said climate change was “the single most important issue” in the electorate.
“It’s really interesting that the demographics of Kooyong have changed in the last 10 or 15 years. There are more young people, and for them, climate change is number one, two and three on the agenda in terms of things that worry them,” she said.
“But that’s also true for older people as well, people of my generation and older, we’re really concerned that the government has failed to take effective action on climate change, and really has not had a cohesive policy on that for at least one or two election cycles.
“We lacked confidence in our government to prosecute change on the single most important issue of our generation, and that’s what has happened at this election: electorates such as mine have spoken on where they want the government to go.”
She went on to describe even Labor’s emissions reduction target for 2030 as “manifestly inadequate”.
Dr Ryan also popped up on ABC radio this morning for a joint interview with one of the other victorious teal independents, Sophie Scamps.
“Still haven’t received a call from Josh Frydenberg?” asked host Patricia Karvelas.
“No,” said Dr Ryan.
“He hasn’t called to congratulate you or concede defeat?” Karvelas asked.
“I haven’t heard from Mr Frydenberg, no. Look, I know it’s a tough time for him. But it would be nice to receive that call.”
Dr Scamps said she had received a “very nice” and “gracious” phone call from the Liberal MP she’d defeated, Jason Falinski.
The pair said they had yet to hold any real discussions about how the independents would work together during the next three years in parliament.
“I think we probably do need to have some discussions around that, and how that will work, but to date our discussions have only been via a WhatsApp group, in which we’ve essentially just been supportive of each other, but not been discussing policy,” said Dr Ryan.
“We will need to have discussions with the major parties, we will need to have discussions with each other, and with the Greens. Because I think we’re all really focused on pragmatism and on results and on facilitating change in the areas that are important to us.”
Karvelas pointed out that Labor could attain a parliamentary majority – that is what we’re currently projecting – which would make the independents’ votes “unnecessary” and rob them of the influence they would have wielded over a minority government.
“We have to, as independents, look at every piece of legislation that comes in front of us and evaluate it on its merits, and go back to our electorates and reflect their views and values,” Dr Scamps told her.
“Independents might vote very differently depending on their electorates’ views.”
Karvelas asked Dr Ryan whether she’d picked up on any sentiment that Mr Frydenberg’s “language” during Victoria’s Covid lockdowns – his criticism of the Andrews government, in other words – had been “lethal” for him in Kooyong.
“It certainly was,” Dr Ryan responded.
“I think, perhaps, he didn’t appreciate the extent to which the people of Victoria were disaffected with the federal government during Covid. And the fact that during lockdowns, which were really difficult and anxious times for us, we felt abandoned by the federal government.
“And at times, in Kooyong, we felt that our local member did not appreciate the difficulties we were experiencing.”
She suggested there was a backlash against Mr Frydenberg’s criticism of the Andrews government because “people are sick of partisanship”.