I have briefly examined the electoral prospects across Gippsland for climate candidates here. I concluded that given the right conditions all of the seats are vulnerable to strong candidates – Independents in the south and east, Labor in the west with Morwell ‘up for grabs’. Whilst the south and the east are probably safe for the Nationals conditions and the climate may go against them.
In the latter electorates outstanding Independent candidates are required. To qualify as outstanding these candidates should be well known and local, media savvy, from the centre or even the centre right of politics, have some groundswell (or networks) of support and be prepared to work very hard during the campaign. Both labor and the greens have already put up strong candidates. Then a tight flow of preferences is needed from both greens and labor directed to the independent before the incumbent.
The Independent candidate in turn must get a substantial primary vote either outpolling the greens and labour and collecting their preferences or at least outpolling the greens enough to put them ahead of labor after green preferences. It goes without saying that they, or all the opposition candidates combined, must reduce the incumbent’s lead to well below a majority. Strategic voting by those who would normally vote Labor or the Greens could give an Independent the boost he/she needs. Such a situation occurred with Craig Ingram in Gippsland East in 1999 and recently with the election of an Independent in the ‘safe’ conservative seat of Wagga in NSW.
So far in Gippsland East we have a strong candidates for Labor, (East Gippsland Shire Councillor Mark Reeves) and the Greens (Deb Foskey). Also there are two likely independent candidates so far – Matt Stephenson and George Neophytou – who both appear to at least partially qualify for the conditions listed above. The former is an advocate of renewable energy and adopts the ‘cautionary principle’ on climate change – that it’s best to act even in the (most unlikely) event that the science is wrong. The latter’s understanding of climate change is not known and neither climate nor renewable energy are mentioned in his policies, though he is opposed to the CSG moratorium being lifted.
As continually pointed out (see here and here ) the link between climate change and extreme weather is clear – especially for heat waves, but also for droughts and severe storms. Parts of East Gippsland are, and have been, in what is locally known as a ‘green drought’ for some time. I am reliably informed that some farmers in the upper Tambo have been ‘feeding out’ at a cost of about $1000 per week for 18 months. Fortunately stock prices have held though hay prices have increased alarmingly.
The terrible performance of the Nationals federally in promoting coal, the complete absence in Victoria of any policy on climate change and being aggressively anti renewable energy of any kind must eventually tell against them. Likewise their policy appears to support overturning Labor’s CSG ban. The drought in East Gippsland continues, fire restrictions are on, we have already had a winter bushfire and the possibility of an El Nino remains. The Nationals have less than 2 months for the weather to break substantially or they may get a surprise at the ballot box.