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Inside the multimillion-dollar mansions of Sydney‘s harbourside dress circle the city’s moneybags movers and shakers are turning against themselves. 

The same thing is happening in eastern suburbs hair salons, on tennis courts and at ladies’ luncheons, where normally conservative citizens are considering not voting Liberal.

Whether the wealthiest electorate in the nation is prepared to abandon its traditional political allegiances is shaping as one of the federal election’s most colourful, significant and tightest contests. 

In the blue corner is the incumbent Liberal member Dave Sharma, a former diplomat and popular local representative waging his third campaign for the seat of Wentworth.

In the blue-green corner is challenger Allegra Spender, the businesswoman daughter of fashion designer Carla Zampatti and Liberal blue blood turned independent. 

Inside the multimillion-dollar mansions of Sydney's harbourside dress circle the city's movers and shakers are turning against themselves over politics. Independent Allegra Spender is challenging Liberal MP Dave Sharma. Spender is pictured on the campaign trail at Clovelly

Inside the multimillion-dollar mansions of Sydney's harbourside dress circle the city's movers and shakers are turning against themselves over politics. Independent Allegra Spender is challenging Liberal MP Dave Sharma. Spender is pictured on the campaign trail at Clovelly

Inside the multimillion-dollar mansions of Sydney’s harbourside dress circle the city’s movers and shakers are turning against themselves over politics. Independent Allegra Spender is challenging Liberal MP Dave Sharma. Spender is pictured on the campaign trail at Clovelly 

Wentworth is the wealthiest electorate in the nation. Whether its voters are prepared to abandon its traditional political allegiances is shaping as one of the federal election's most colourful, significant and tightest fights. Liberal MP Dave Sharma is pictured at Bondi Junction

Wentworth is the wealthiest electorate in the nation. Whether its voters are prepared to abandon its traditional political allegiances is shaping as one of the federal election's most colourful, significant and tightest fights. Liberal MP Dave Sharma is pictured at Bondi Junction

Wentworth is the wealthiest electorate in the nation. Whether its voters are prepared to abandon its traditional political allegiances is shaping as one of the federal election’s most colourful, significant and tightest fights. Liberal MP Dave Sharma is pictured at Bondi Junction

The campaign has already featured claims an elite private girl’s school has unfairly thrown its support behind Spender and that Sharma has copied his opponent’s electioneering colours.

Spender has been forced to defend fixing her signage to power poles after both sides agreed not to do so, and Sharma has been mocked for bragging about his HSC results.  

The challenger is financially backed by the Climate 200 fund established by investor and political activist Simon Holmes à Court, whose father Robert was Australia’s first billionaire.

Cashed-up Spender has amassed an army of volunteers and is doing a strong trade selling merchandise – $15 for a cap or tote bag and $20 for a T-shirt – all featuring the Climate 200 teal.  

A third major figure in the contest, Prime Minister Scott Morrison, is unlikely to be sighted in Wentworth before polling day but his mere existence could determine the result. 

A swathe of socially progressive Wentworth voters – particularly professional women – has turned against the Morrison government and is set to take out their frustration on May 21.

Cashed-up Spender has amassed an army of volunteers and is doing a strong trade selling merchandise - $15 for a cap or tote bag and $20 for a T-shirt - all featuring the Climate 200 teal. Volunteers Lynn Ralph (left) and Vanessa Jones are pictured at Centennial Park

Cashed-up Spender has amassed an army of volunteers and is doing a strong trade selling merchandise - $15 for a cap or tote bag and $20 for a T-shirt - all featuring the Climate 200 teal. Volunteers Lynn Ralph (left) and Vanessa Jones are pictured at Centennial Park

Cashed-up Spender has amassed an army of volunteers and is doing a strong trade selling merchandise – $15 for a cap or tote bag and $20 for a T-shirt – all featuring the Climate 200 teal. Volunteers Lynn Ralph (left) and Vanessa Jones are pictured at Centennial Park

Dave Sharma is a former diplomat and popular local representative waging his third campaign for Wentworth. He has warned voters against electing an independent. Financial adviser Aime Baker has festooned her Bondi Junction home (pictured) with Sharma promotional material

Dave Sharma is a former diplomat and popular local representative waging his third campaign for Wentworth. He has warned voters against electing an independent. Financial adviser Aime Baker has festooned her Bondi Junction home (pictured) with Sharma promotional material

Dave Sharma is a former diplomat and popular local representative waging his third campaign for Wentworth. He has warned voters against electing an independent. Financial adviser Aime Baker has festooned her Bondi Junction home (pictured) with Sharma promotional material

Ella Pong, a 38-year-old mother-of-one from Woollahra who works in finance, has voted for both major parties in the past but will be choosing Spender this time.

Pong, who was wearing one of Spender’s caps in Oxford Street, Paddington this week, named climate change inaction and ‘political integrity’ as swinging her vote. 

It’s this particular government, not the Liberal Party, that I’ve got an issue with 
Wentworth voter Ella Pong 

‘It’s this particular government, not the Liberal Party, that I’ve got an issue with,’ she told Daily Mail Australia. 

‘It’s clear over the last three years the government has just been treading water. Everything from getting vaccines, floods, bushfires. Where do you start?’  

Dissatisfaction with Morrison’s leadership has raised the real possibility that Wentworth – held by Sharma with a 1.3 per cent margin – could fall to an independent who will not say which party she would support in the event of a hung parliament. 

Sharma won Wentworth in 2019 from independent Kerryn Phelps, having narrowly lost a 2018 by-election to her when Malcolm Turnbull was deposed as prime minister and replaced by Morrison.

Paloma Garcia from Rose Bay owns Paloma Salon at Paddington and is a climate change activist. She is backing Spender. 'She's going to finally take some action on climate change and I think that should be the absolute number one priority for all voters,' the 37-year-old said

Paloma Garcia from Rose Bay owns Paloma Salon at Paddington and is a climate change activist. She is backing Spender. 'She's going to finally take some action on climate change and I think that should be the absolute number one priority for all voters,' the 37-year-old said

Paloma Garcia from Rose Bay owns Paloma Salon at Paddington and is a climate change activist. She is backing Spender. ‘She’s going to finally take some action on climate change and I think that should be the absolute number one priority for all voters,’ the 37-year-old said

Suburbs from Darling Point, Point Piper, Vaucluse and Bellevue Hill through Paddington, Woollahra, Rose Bay, Double Bay and Bondi Junction are plastered with posters for both candidates. Posters for Sharma and Spender are pictured in Yarranabbe Road at Darling Point

Suburbs from Darling Point, Point Piper, Vaucluse and Bellevue Hill through Paddington, Woollahra, Rose Bay, Double Bay and Bondi Junction are plastered with posters for both candidates. Posters for Sharma and Spender are pictured in Yarranabbe Road at Darling Point

Suburbs from Darling Point, Point Piper, Vaucluse and Bellevue Hill through Paddington, Woollahra, Rose Bay, Double Bay and Bondi Junction are plastered with posters for both candidates. Posters for Sharma and Spender are pictured in Yarranabbe Road at Darling Point

The seat, which is geographically the second smallest in the country, has otherwise been a Liberal stronghold since World War II and has never been held by Labor since Federation in 1901.

Spender should be Liberal royalty. Her father John was the party’s member for North Sydney and grandfather Sir Percy Spender a minister in Menzies governments.

Spender is the daughter of the late fashion designer Carla Zampatti (pictured)

Spender is the daughter of the late fashion designer Carla Zampatti (pictured)

Spender is the daughter of the late fashion designer Carla Zampatti (pictured)

By running as an independent she will split the conservative vote in these socially progressive households and divide some of the nation’s richest and most influential families, social circles and boardrooms.

Sharma counts as supporters business leader David Gonski and the Seven Network’s commercial director Bruce McWilliam, while Spender has Macquarie Group director Jillian Broadbent and businesswoman Wendy McCarthy backing her tilt. 

Private fundraising dinners have been held for Sharma in the homes of billionaires Steven Lowy and Monica Saunders-Weinberg.

Leaders of the area’s large Jewish community have said their members are as divided as the rest of the electorate.

Sharma was among the mourners at the state funeral for Spender’s mother, who died in April last year following a fall while watching the opera at Mrs Macquarie’s Point.

Also in attendance were Turnbull, fellow former Liberal prime ministers John Howard and Tony Abbott, their respective wives Lucy, Janette and Margie, and Morrison’s wife Jenny.

Spender is pictured right, next to her sister Bianca Spender at their mother Carla Zampatti's state funeral. Next to them is former Liberal foreign minister and fashionista Julie Bishop

Spender is pictured right, next to her sister Bianca Spender at their mother Carla Zampatti's state funeral. Next to them is former Liberal foreign minister and fashionista Julie Bishop

Spender is pictured right, next to her sister Bianca Spender at their mother Carla Zampatti’s state funeral. Next to them is former Liberal foreign minister and fashionista Julie Bishop

Sharma was among the mourners at the state funeral for Spender's mother, who died in April last year following a fall while watching the opera at Mrs Macquarie's Point. He is pictured outside the service at St Mary's Cathedral in Sydney's central business district

Sharma was among the mourners at the state funeral for Spender's mother, who died in April last year following a fall while watching the opera at Mrs Macquarie's Point. He is pictured outside the service at St Mary's Cathedral in Sydney's central business district

Sharma was among the mourners at the state funeral for Spender’s mother, who died in April last year following a fall while watching the opera at Mrs Macquarie’s Point. He is pictured outside the service at St Mary’s Cathedral in Sydney’s central business district 

The two candidates have only met a few times but have overlapping friends and acquaintances. Some may not be prepared to publicly indicate which candidate they support. 

Several business owners told Daily Mail Australia they strongly backed Sharma or Spender but did not want to risk losing customers by advertising their position.  

Turnbull has not indicated how he will vote but will not be campaigning for Sharma and says both candidates are ‘very good’. 

I think what’s at stake is if you put in an independent here you’ll get a Labor-Greens government supported by independents
Dave Sharma 

Sharma said the battle for Wentworth was more than a sideshow and would have national significance. 

‘I think what’s at stake is if you put in an independent here you’ll get a Labor-Greens government supported by independents,’ he said.  

‘My opponent will not say who she would support in the event of a hung parliament and I think the fact that she is not doing so is a recipe for uncertainty. 

‘If she refuses to answer that I think that’s deeply dishonest.’ 

Sharma warned disaffected Liberal voters who were unhappy with the government’s performance should think carefully about the consequences of voting for an independent. 

Spender says Sharma cannot do enough on climate change as a member of a Coalition government, while he says she cannot make real change if elected as an independent. Spender is pictured left talking to a Wentworth constituent at Clovelly

Spender says Sharma cannot do enough on climate change as a member of a Coalition government, while he says she cannot make real change if elected as an independent. Spender is pictured left talking to a Wentworth constituent at Clovelly

Spender says Sharma cannot do enough on climate change as a member of a Coalition government, while he says she cannot make real change if elected as an independent. Spender is pictured left talking to a Wentworth constituent at Clovelly

Sharma warned disaffected Liberal voters who were unhappy with the government's performance should think carefully about the consequences of voting for an independent. Campaign banners for Spender are pictured above a double garage at Paddington

Sharma warned disaffected Liberal voters who were unhappy with the government's performance should think carefully about the consequences of voting for an independent. Campaign banners for Spender are pictured above a double garage at Paddington

Sharma warned disaffected Liberal voters who were unhappy with the government’s performance should think carefully about the consequences of voting for an independent. Campaign banners for Spender are pictured above a double garage at Paddington

‘I’d say what they need to focus on nationally is that it’s not a popularity contest,’ he said. ‘It’s not a question of agreeing with everything that a leader’s done – no one’s gong to do that. It’s a choice.

‘The only way you’re going to get a Liberal government nationally is if you put a Liberal candidate here in Wentworth. That’s what people need to understand.’    

Climate change is a major issue in Wentworth and both candidates are strong supporters of renewable energy sources. The Coalition has a target to reduce emissions by 26 to 28 per cent by 2030. Spender wants at least 50 per cent.

Spender says Sharma cannot do enough on climate change as a member of a Coalition government, while he says she cannot make real change if elected as an independent. 

Sharma, 46, is a moderate Liberal but Spender, 44, says he does not vote on legislation as a true moderate and is beholden to the party rather than Wentworth’s constituents.

Sharma said the battle for Wentworth would have national significance. 'I think what's at stake is if you put in an independent here you'll get a Labor-Greens government supported by independents,' he said. The father-of-three is pictured campaigning at Bondi Junction

Sharma said the battle for Wentworth would have national significance. 'I think what's at stake is if you put in an independent here you'll get a Labor-Greens government supported by independents,' he said. The father-of-three is pictured campaigning at Bondi Junction

Sharma said the battle for Wentworth would have national significance. ‘I think what’s at stake is if you put in an independent here you’ll get a Labor-Greens government supported by independents,’ he said. The father-of-three is pictured campaigning at Bondi Junction

Both candidates told Daily Mail Australia that Wentworth was wrongly perceived as a wealthy enclave when it was a far more diverse community. Sharma posters are pictured at Woollahra

Both candidates told Daily Mail Australia that Wentworth was wrongly perceived as a wealthy enclave when it was a far more diverse community. Sharma posters are pictured at Woollahra

Both candidates told Daily Mail Australia that Wentworth was wrongly perceived as a wealthy enclave when it was a far more diverse community. Sharma posters are pictured at Woollahra

‘I think the people of Wentworth would say, has he done enough? And the answer is a resounding no,’ Spender said.

‘I think my ability to vote and to advocate and also to put forward legislation as in independent is going to be much more effective than someone who is inside the tent but not willing to stand up.’ 

Spender is in no doubt Liberal voters in Wentworth are disenchanted. 

‘They are absolutely and it’s because the government is not making decisions in our long-term interest on climate, it’s not acting with integrity, which is what the people expect.

‘And they don’t think they’re using their money wisely and that really concerns this electorate.’  

The opponents’ campaign offices are on opposite sides of New South Head Road near Edgecliff train station where their presence is hard to miss. 

Financial advisor Amie Baker (pictured) is passionate about climate change and in Sharma's camp. Baker was 'not comfortable' with the idea of an independent local member. 'I do believe we need a Liberal in the seat of Wentworth,' she said

Financial advisor Amie Baker (pictured) is passionate about climate change and in Sharma's camp. Baker was 'not comfortable' with the idea of an independent local member. 'I do believe we need a Liberal in the seat of Wentworth,' she said

Financial advisor Amie Baker (pictured) is passionate about climate change and in Sharma’s camp. Baker was ‘not comfortable’ with the idea of an independent local member. ‘I do believe we need a Liberal in the seat of Wentworth,’ she said

Suburbs from Darling Point, Point Piper, Vaucluse and Bellevue Hill through Paddington, Woollahra, Rose Bay, Double Bay and Bondi Junction are plastered with posters for both candidates. 

But there is apparently no personal animosity between Sharma and Spender. 

‘I find no fault with her personal characteristics,’ Sharma said. ‘It’s policies and what we’re planning to do if elected where we have the strongest differences.’

Spender: ‘I don’t know him personally really well. I’ve met him three times. It’s better this isn’t a personal thing.’

The campaign has threatened to get personal. A glowing piece on Spender, who was head girl and dux of Ascham School, ran on the college website under the headline ‘Allegra fights for a better climate’.

Allegra Spender CV

Spender, 44, is the daughter of fashion designer Carla Zampatti and federal Liberal frontbencher John Spender, who held the seat of North Sydney until 1990 when he was ousted by independent Ted Mack. 

She attended Ascham School at Edgecliff where she was head girl and dux in her final year with a Tertiary Entrance Rank of 99.95. She then gained an economics degree from Cambridge, a Master of Science at the University of London and completed business courses at Harvard.

Spender worked as a business analyst at McKinsey and with the UK Treasury as a policy analyst before becoming managing director at Carla Zampatti Pty Ltd.

She is CEO of the Australian Business and Community Network, has two sons and lives at Darling Point.  

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One of Sharma’s three daughters still attends Ascham and the piece was withdrawn after it was brought to public attention.

Rowena Danziger was Ascham’s formidable headmistress for three decades until 2003 and has appeared in an endorsement video for Spender. 

Danziger has been a confidante of the Packer family and was a longtime Crown board member. She helped guide the education of thousands of fortunate girls who will vote in this election.  

It is hard to imagine a retired school principal potentially having so much sway in a federal poll anywhere else in the nation. 

Early in this nasty-nice campaign a Spender volunteer berated a business owner for having Sharma signs in his shop window, which Spender said was ‘completely unacceptable’. 

Some complaints between the parties are just as trivial. 

Sharma has used a similar teal common to the Climate 200 candidates across the country for his election pamphlets. ‘No one owns a colour,’ he has quipped. 

Both candidates told Daily Mail Australia that Wentworth was wrongly perceived as a wealthy enclave when it was a far more diverse community. 

‘There’s Point Piper but there’s also Bondi Junction and Paddington and Bronte and places like that are completely different,’ Sharma said. 

‘There’s a significant number of people who rely upon fixed incomes and pensions. It’s got high incomes in some parts but it’s also got people who are struggling to pay the rent each week.’ 

Spender said 60 per cent of residents in Wentworth lived in strata arrangements or apartments.

‘Everybody thinks Wentworth is harbourside mansions but it’s not true and that is why things like electric vehicles are difficult,’ she said. 

Ella Pong, a 38-year-old mother-of-one who works in finance, had voted for both major parties in the past but would be choosing Spender this time. Pong, pictured wearing one of Spender's caps, named climate change inaction and 'political integrity' as swinging her vote

Ella Pong, a 38-year-old mother-of-one who works in finance, had voted for both major parties in the past but would be choosing Spender this time. Pong, pictured wearing one of Spender's caps, named climate change inaction and 'political integrity' as swinging her vote

Ella Pong, a 38-year-old mother-of-one who works in finance, had voted for both major parties in the past but would be choosing Spender this time. Pong, pictured wearing one of Spender’s caps, named climate change inaction and ‘political integrity’ as swinging her vote

Spender does not own an electric vehicle because she has no garage or driveway. Sharma uses a petrol vehicle provided by the Commonwealth and does not have solar panels because he lives in a terrace.  

Spender rejected any suggestion that action on climate change including the adoption of electric vehicles could only be afforded by the rich. 

Dave Sharma CV

Sharma, 46, was born in Canada to an Australian mother and Indian father who met in London and brought their three children to Sydney.

His mother died when Sharma was 12 and he was then raised by his father. He achieved a Tertiary Entrance Rank of 100 at Turramurra High School and graduated with first class honours from Cambridge University.

Sharma joined the Department of Foreign Affairs and worked as a diplomat in Bougainville and Papua New Guinea, served a stint in Washington and spent four years as ambassador to Israel.

He is married to diplomat and lawyer Rachel Lord and the couple lives at Paddington with their three daughters. 

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‘This is a lie that’s been perpetrated that we’ve got to chose between our economic interests and climate,’ she said. 

‘Solar and wind, supported by batteries, is the cheapest form of electricity in this country. If we want to get power bills down we need to continue to invest in renewables. 

‘If you buy an electric vehicle, over the lifetime of the car you will save money.’

Sharma also did not think climate change and electric cars were concerns only for the wealthy. 

‘I think people want to address climate change and take action but they’re also concerned about the cost of living and the economic impacts of that,’ he said.

‘You shouldn’t pretend to people that you can do all this overnight and it won’t have an impact and it won’t disrupt lives – it will.’

Paloma Garcia from Rose Bay owns Paloma Salon at Paddington and is a climate change activist. She is right behind Spender.

‘She’s going to finally take some action on climate change and I think that should be the absolute number one priority for all voters,’ the 37-year-old said. 

‘And I’m a huge supporter of the independents. I think that is the best and only way we’re going to start to see change in politics.’

Financial advisor Amie Baker from Bondi Junction is also passionate about climate change but is in Sharma’s camp. 

‘He’s a good guy and he’s got a great history in terms of his leadership and time in politics,’ the 44-year-old mother and stepmother to six children said. 

'I think people generally speaking recognise that I've been a hard working and accessible local member who gets things done for the community,' Sharma told Daily Mail Australia

'I think people generally speaking recognise that I've been a hard working and accessible local member who gets things done for the community,' Sharma told Daily Mail Australia

‘I think people generally speaking recognise that I’ve been a hard working and accessible local member who gets things done for the community,’ Sharma told Daily Mail Australia

‘He’s already done things that show he’s passionate in protecting our environment. The work he’s done so far has been impressive.’

Baker, who has adorned her home with posters promoting the Liberal candidate, was ‘not comfortable’ with the idea of an independent local member.

‘I do believe we need a Liberal in the seat of Wentworth,’ she said.       

Sharma denied the battle for Wentworth was just about action on climate change.  

‘It’s certainly an important issue here and I don’t resile from that,’ he said. ‘What I stand for in that area is not empty promises but a responsible and detailed plan to get to net zero and increase our renewable energy.

‘And I think that’s the big contrast with an independent. With an independent you get a whole lot of blank cheques and a whole lot of empty promises.’      

Spender rejected any suggestion that action on climate change including the adoption of electric vehicles could only be afforded by the rich. 'This is a lie that's been perpetrated that we've got to chose between our economic interests and climate,' she said

Spender rejected any suggestion that action on climate change including the adoption of electric vehicles could only be afforded by the rich. 'This is a lie that's been perpetrated that we've got to chose between our economic interests and climate,' she said

Spender rejected any suggestion that action on climate change including the adoption of electric vehicles could only be afforded by the rich. ‘This is a lie that’s been perpetrated that we’ve got to chose between our economic interests and climate,’ she said

Sharma said there was no ‘third way’ in Australian elections.

‘An election is a choice between two alternative visions for Australia, two alternative prime ministers, two alternative parties,’ he said.

‘You’re only going to get one or the other. The idea that there’s some sort of third way on offer, that there’s some new way of doing politics – there isn’t.

‘One of the major parties will form government and voters need to decide very carefully before they cast their vote which of those two they want. 

‘It might be the one that they dislike the least. But it’s ultimately what the contest is down between.’ 

Sharma said there was no 'third way' in Australian elections. 'An election is a choice between two alternative visions for Australia, two alternative prime ministers, two alternative parties'

Sharma said there was no 'third way' in Australian elections. 'An election is a choice between two alternative visions for Australia, two alternative prime ministers, two alternative parties'

Sharma said there was no ‘third way’ in Australian elections. ‘An election is a choice between two alternative visions for Australia, two alternative prime ministers, two alternative parties’

Source: Daily Mail

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