The two are facing off in a televised debate on Sky News this afternoon at the Queenscliff Life Saving Club in the crucial seat of Warringah on Sydney’s northern beaches.
The seat is held by the Liberal party on a margin of 11.1 per cent, making the debate a hotly anticipated event.
Scores of supporters of each candidate have turned out for the event, including people holding “We love Tony” signs butting heads with those holding signs that read “vote dinosaurs out”.
One of Stegall’s supporters even turned up in a dinosaur suit.
Zali Steggall supporters are outside Queenscliff surf club where the Warringah debate is about to go on air at 4.30pm. @ManlyDaily #warringahdebate #abbottvsteggall @TonyAbbottMHR @zalisteggall pic.twitter.com/1b1k2qUEu3
— julie cross (@juliejourno) May 2, 2019
There was applause as Mr Abbott entered the room, with Liberal Party supporters crowded outside the club, where the two will address an audience of Manly Daily readers.
Mosman resident Bruce Marish told news.com.au that he was there to support Mr Abbott.
“I want to know what Zali Steggall could do about giving hundreds and thousands of dollars to local community organisations and that sort of thing,” he said.
“As an independent they’ve got no hope of getting the sort of money that Tony’s got for this electorate and this is about the seat of Warringah.
There was an even bigger cheer for Ms Steggall, completely overwhelming Mr Abbott’s reception.
There were chants of “Zali, Zali” as the debate was about to get under way.
One Queenscliff resident told news.com.au “we’re here for our children’s future”.
He described Mr Abbott as the greatest blockage to everything that this country’s got to offer including renewables.
Many Zali supporters nominated climate change and same-sex marriage as reasons why they were supporting the independent.
DEBATE GETS UNDER WAY
The crowd reacted with boos after Mr Abbott warned those thinking about a protest vote, saying “just remember this, a protest vote will give you a Labor government”.
Questions have been taken from the audience, among the first being about climate change, an issue dividing the candidates and the community.
“We need to invest in renewables and transition in an orderly way,” Ms Stegall said.
“I believe we need ambitious targets because that’s the only way we can achieve big things, by being ambitious.
“We need to take action.”