The Climate Election – Prospects in Gippsland

Coastal Erosion at Inverloch (Bunurong Coast)

The seat of Gippsland held by Darren Chester is one of the safest in Victoria and the opposition candidates have a difficult task making any inroads into his majority. It will be interesting to see whether the severe drought, clearly influenced by climate change, has any impact on the vote. More importantly the Greens Deb Foskey has run on a ‘Climate Election’ platform and has made three short videos on this subject – with a winemaker, an organic farmer and on the Toora windfarm. As far as I am aware she is also the only candidate in Gippsland or Monash to actually sign the climate emergency declaration.

Deb also agreed to the question ‘Do you accept the scientific consensus on human caused global warming?’ as did ALP candidate Antoinette Holm. Surprisingly, sitting member Darren Chester has also agreed, though this conflicts with his previous (and continuing?) promotion of coal. I was recently quite severe on his position with regards the promotion of electric vehicles and commented on his, and his government’s, failure to act. But his agreement to the question must be considered a positive step.

If any electorate changes hands it will be the newly named Monash. Catherine Watson of the Bass Coast Post has interviewed a number of the candidates and points out that the boundaries have been redrawn – adding Bass coast and Phillip Island and removing a strong labour area in Pakenham. Another unknown is the youth vote. The margin for current incumbent Russell Broadbent is about 6% making him vulnerable to any swing against the LNP. This is about the same margin as in the state seat of Bass* that changed hands last year.

Of the candidates interviewed all seemed concerned with the severe coastal erosion at Inverloch, though only one of them took the extra step to link this with climate change. The Greens candidate Will Hornstra emphasised renewable energy projects whilst Independent Michael Fozard was the only one to actually mention climate change. He said “At our end of the electorate one of the most pressing issues is beach erosion. It’s urgent, we need now to be taking action now.  It’s part of climate change and rising sea levels. Whether climate change is cyclical or man-made, we need to take action. We can’t just put our heads in the sand.” This otherwise good comment was somewhat spoilt by his ambivalence on the warming being man-made. If Monash changes hands it will almost certainly go to ALP candidate Jessica O’Donnell.

Unless there is a very large swing against the government the Victorian Senators will remain the same except perhaps for the last seat held by Derryn Hinch. There is a very small possibility of this going to a climate party independent**. Whichever way the vote goes the outcome in the Senate will probably take several weeks to be finalised. And May 18 will be the first in a long series of climate elections to come.

*I was one of the few commentators to suggest the State Electorate of Bass could change hands in the State Election. See here.

** I am a member of Independents for Climate Action Now.