National

Victoria poised to decide federal fortunes

By AAP Newswire

Scott Morrison's grip on power could be released by voters in Victoria, where a number of conservative seats are under threat.

High-profile independents have launched attacks on traditionally-safe Liberal seats across the state, trying to capitalise on lingering displeasure after Malcolm Turnbull's removal as party leader, and a walloping in November's state election.

It's led to the surprise sandbagging of inner-Melbourne electorates of Higgins, thrown into question with the retirement of Industrial Relations Minister Kelly O'Dwyer, and Treasurer Josh Frydenberg's seat of Kooyong.

Mr Frydenberg holds Kooyong on a nearly 13 per cent margin but Liberal-turned-independent Oliver Yates, and human rights lawyer and Greens candidate Julian Burnside are gunning for him.

The duo are competitors but sing from virtually the same song sheet on climate change, and are united in hammering the Liberal MP over the Abbott-Turnbull-Morrison government's track record on environmental policy.

In Higgins, the Liberals are pinning their hopes on former state election candidate Katie Allen.

Higgins has previously been held by prime ministers Harold Holt and John Gordon, as well as former treasurer Peter Costello, who passed the baton to Ms O'Dwyer in 2009.

In 2016 the retiring MP won Higgins with a 7.4 per cent margin over the Greens, who are engaged in a long game of capitalising on the electorate's changing demographics with candidate Jason Ball.

Southwest of Melbourne lies the coalition's most marginal seat, Corangamite, taking in Greater Geelong and held by Sarah Henderson by just 0.03 per cent after a redistribution made it notionally Labor.

She took it from Labor's Darren Cheeseman in 2013 but the opposition believe they can win it back with Libby Coker, who also ran for the seat at the last federal poll.

On Victoria's Mornington Peninsula another Liberal-turned-independent, Julia Banks, is going after Health Minister Greg Hunt, who holds the seat of Flinders on a margin of about seven per cent.

Ms Banks ditched her Liberal alignment after August's leadership spill and is also leaving her seat of Chisholm, which she won in 2016. She says Flinders voters are still angry about Mr Hunt's role in Mr Turnbull's removal and want more done about climate change.

Another seat the Liberals have been forced to shore up is Deakin, in Melbourne's east, held by Michael Sukkar on a 6.44 per cent margin.

He's been targeted by union ads for backing Peter Dutton and was dumped from the front bench when Mr Morrison took the leadership.