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  • Rushmi Rosairo

The Australian Elections; Climate Change is a Determining Factor for Voters

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After being burdened with some of the worst floods and fires, Australian voters are more focused than ever on the topic of climate change, as the country’s federal elections are coming up on the 21st of May 2022. Enraged by the lack of government action regarding climate change, a new group of climate conscious individuals are rapidly becoming popular, hinting the upheaval of the federal election this Saturday. The candidates are campaigning hard on the environmental issues, about half a dozen of these candidates have come to be known as “teal independents”, reflecting their appeal to the combination of the ‘blue’ moderate liberals and ‘green’ as to show their stance on climate change.

As the country recovers from the Black Summer bush fires in 2019-2020, following the country’s hottest and driest year in history, the federal government has been highly criticised for its inability to respond at a faster pace, leaving Locals to depend on their communities for assistance and aid. Prime Minister Scott Morrison was later met with the public’s displeasure, in the form of furniture, toys, all burnt by the fires, along with placards, outside his official residence.

“Despite decades of warnings from scientists about climate change, Australia is unprepared for the supercharged weather that it is now driving,” said Hilary Bambrick, co-author of Australia’s annual assessment of progress on climate adaptation.

Floods in March, across NSW and Queensland killed 22 people, also making more than 2000 homes uninhabitable. The country has recently been hit with floods supposed to happen only once in 100 years, the floods occurring twice in the span of a few weeks. In Lismore, the river had risen more than 14 metres towards the end of February.

According to experts, all these natural disasters (the extreme heat drought, bushfires, floods) are a product of the climate change. With Australia at the forefront of severe climate change, the people are highly concerned, but some of the major parties for the election, especially the Coalition, seem to be not particularly bothered by the issue. A whole lot of the politicians in the Liberal-National Coalition are climate change sceptics/ deniers. Climate change has only been brought up a handful of times by them, and the only moment in which it was considered a serious topic of discussion, recently, was when Queensland Nationals Senator Matt Canavan declared net zero to be “dead” and “all over bar the shouting”, his claim was that climate change could be swept under the rug for another 10-20 years.

Picture Credit: WSWS website

Now, in addition to the lack of attention to one of the worlds most pressing issues, Australia is one of the countries with the highest emissions in the world. The fossil fuel industry is a significant employer in every state in Australia. According to the Central Bank, mining accounts for 11.5% of the country’s economic output, the fossil fuels are about quarter of the total exports. Despite several high-profile commitments from energy producers to shut down coal and gas plants earlier planned, both major political parties don’t seem to be having the same sentiment, as they have committed to continuing the support of fossil fuels. It is commonly known that coal is the fossil fuel with the highest emissions. New coal and gas projects of 114 in total are in the government’s official register. With these projects, experts expect Australia’s emissions to increase by more than 250%.

As to why the Coalition seem to be content with sweeping climate change under the rug; the issue doesn’t have a physical urgency, as oblivious as that sounds, ‘u cannot see it happening in real time, so therefore the problem is not urgent’. The other reason is, the effects of climate change is always in the form of another problem. There is no direct discussion regarding climate change, effort has to be taken in order to discuss the issue as a whole and not just the effects of it. For example; a spreading bushfire is an effect of climate change, but immediate efforts would be to eliminate the fire, instead of discussing the cause of it.

The majority of Australians want action against climate change. According to a survey done in mid-2021, 67% of voters consider climate change to be an issue of great importance, along with a 28% who consider it to be the most important issue to tackle. Another survey showed that 93% of the people who are under 30, the younger generation, believe the lack of action against climate change is inexcusable, as it will be their problem if the issue is not taken into consideration.

According to analysts, Liberal leader Scott Morrison is likely to lose power at the election, ending nine years of conservative government.

May 18th 2022 | 6:00 PM

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