KIM WINGEREI The Climate Election That Wasn’t

May 24, 2019

This was supposed to be the election about climate action. It was the most important issue for voters, yet official government policy remains climate inaction as the opposition was once again divided on the issue and failed to make sufficient impact. It could have been so different…

After the last six years of inaction by the coalition government the electorate was supposed to finally – and strongly – be in favour of government initiatives beyond glib statements of intent and paying lip-service to international climate treaties. In a poll leading up to the election the ABC Vote Compass survey found that 29% of voters rated the environment as their most important issue, followed by the economy on 23%.

The Coalition released yet another inadequate policy statement without the convictions of many of its senior ranks. Labor produced a much more comprehensive policy and announced much more ambitious emission reduction targets.

In Tony Abbott’s electorate of Warringah independent candidate Zali Steggall campaigned hard on the issue and won.

Labor focused on electric cars and other feel-good measures but failed to cut through as the party that would really take climate action seriously. They failed to take a firm stand on coal and fossil fuels in general, and on Adani in particular – too afraid to upset the Queensland communities sold on the widely over-stated jobs that it will create. It is quite likely that whatever votes they may have retained in FNQ were far outweighed by losses in other parts of the country which saw Adani as a national issue.

The Greens’ campaigning was all about climate action, as expected.

The “winner” was the LNP with their message of avoiding jobs losses and generally focusing on the economy and making fun of batteries, while telling voters they would lose their gass guzzling utes and 4WD’s.

Voters are to blame, of course. But as much as I abhor the LNP’s stance, it was very much as expected from a Government led by a bloke who puts his faith in miracles and brought a lump of coal into parliament saying it was nothing to be afraid of.

We could – and should – have expected more from Labor and in particular from the Greens who once again showed that they have learnt nothing. Once again they refused to cooperate with anybody and once again they ended up with 10% of the vote and a single lower house seat – a result of limited preference flow and spreading themselves too thin.

If the Greens really had the interest of the environment at heart as their rhetoric indicates. If their party really believe in their over-riding purpose, they would have moved heaven and earth to collaborate with Labor (and maybe some of the minor parties with similar goals to theirs).

Likewise Labor – instead of “ruling out any coalition with the Greens” Shorten had everything to gain from doing just that, but he was probably to afraid of a party room revolt because of earlier divisions on the issue and the ingrained belief in Labor’s right to rule again (eventually). The party came first as always.

The combined primary vote of Labor and Greens is likely to be around 500,000 higher than the LNP Coalition. At a combined 44% of the primary vote that is an election winning result in every election since 1996. Instead of fielding a seat in every electorate the Greens should have focused their resources on seats where they could make a difference. Instead of being dogmatic about the “one true path” the Greens should have done preference deals with Labor and worked together to promote the importance of the climate action message.

The LNP Coalition won this election by the skinniest of margins and only thanks to preferences from the racists and ignorants of the far right. In the absence of any extreme left-wing parties in Australia the progressive voices could and should have been adequately heard and supported by Labor and Greens working together.

While the Greens continue to wannabe the full fledged party they are not, and Labor continue to refuse to change their ways, continue to shy away from the really big policy decisions, the money and the media-savvy of the recalcitrants will continue to perpetuate the capitalist myths at the expense of mother earth.

History will not be kind to any of the parties responsible for our continued inaction – deliberately or otherwise.

Kim Wingerei is a former business-man, turned writer and commentator. Passionate about free speech, human rights, democracy and the politics of change. Originally from Norway, lived in Australia for 30 years. Author of ‘Why Democracy is Broken – A Blueprint for Change’. Follow @ / Twitter @kwingerei

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