Our First of Many Climate Elections?

Some of my friends perceive the climate election as a failure. But this is not necessarily so. There have been faults with both the major parties – both are clearly divided over climate change and energy. Further a number of strategic errors were made by the Greens who have the best climate policies and the various NGOs supporting the climate election.

A majority of the members of parliament of the major parties at both State and Federal level have yet to understand, let alone come to grips with, the climate emergency we are facing. This is clearly indicated by the lack of policies (or their hostility to them) by the LNP and the conflict and contradictions within ALP policies. The Greens made a number of tactical blunders including listing the only party in the Senate to accept the best science and the climate emergency well down their preferences. NGOs of various organisations failed to co-operate and co-ordinate their activities and except in one or two cases these were poorly targeted.

There are critical gaps in the education of voters on this issue. In particular large segments of the population still accept the myth that the global warming is all, or partly, natural and that therefore they cannot do anything about it. A further larger group accept climate change is happening but choose to ignore the implications. These were findings from a CSIRO survey of some 4 years ago but I suspect little has changed in this regard and the results are similar to a survey done 2 years ago by Sustainability Victoria.

The election highlights a general failure of the previous Labour government to educate and inform the voters on climate change. And spruiking the enormous opportunities for Australia as a renewable energy superpower was an opportunity in this campaign Labour also missed. I have been calling for such a just transition in Gippsland for many years. Full employment is an essential prior requirement in localities about to be affected by dramatic changes such as mine or power station closures. At the moment this foresight and planning is seldom to be found. And this election has shown the less educated and uninformed voting with conservative parties where jobs are the immediate concern.

Both major parties are clearly split on the climate crisis and renewable energy. In the election the ALP leader Shorten mentioned the climate emergency on one hand and then supported a massive CSG project in the Northern Territory. Within the LNP moderates like Senator Sinidinos are now calling for an expansion of renewables whilst Queenslander members are pushing Adani and calling for government to fund new coal powered stations.

This suggests that Federal government activity on climate will be token at best with a dying coal industry still promoted by the hard core denialists in the LNP ranks. The way forward in climate politics is widespread public education on the issue and adopting sound grass roots action along the Haines/McGowan (Indi) and Steggalls models. As the climate emergency deepens every election will be a climate election.