Federal election: climate referendum

The Smart Energy Council stands firmly beside the Australian Conservation Foundation in declaring the 2019 federal election the climate election, one where “If they want our votes, the only option for the people's representatives is to rise to the occasion and deliver.”

And if popular sentiment in the federal electorate of Wentworth is any judge, the Coalition is in for a hiding unless it is willing to listen and act on voters’ concerns. 

The ACF has mounted a campaign that puts the spotlight on issues that matter to people and to the planet, and last week chief executive Kelly O'Shanassy addressed the National Press Club on the series of deeply troubling concerns.

In a stirring speech she laid out the risks of ignoring the signals – coral bleaching, drought, cyclones, sea rises and other catastrophic events.

“Aussies know it’s hotter than it used to be. That the droughts don’t seem to end. That the seasons don’t quite start at the times they used to. That flowers are blooming earlier than when we were kids,” she said.

“[But] For decades our elected representatives have consistently underestimated climate change. A path of politically dead Prime Ministers from Howard to Rudd to Turnbull, and those in between, is testament to this.

“After the past 15 years of conflict it’s time for our elected representatives to listen to the Australian public and finally get going on the action we need.

“It’s time for Australia to be a great mate to the world and take action to stop climate damage. Climate catastrophe is not our destiny. But we are living in an era that demands courage, vision and leadership,” O'Shanassy said.

“My warning to those in the house up on the hill – if they ignore climate change, they do so at their political peril.

“Right now, neither of the two major parties are doing enough to stop climate damage.”

Smart Energy Council chief executive John Grimes says there is a groundswell of support for clear policies to address climate change and emissions in the build up to the federal election that will be called before May 2019.

“This was demonstrated by the success of independent candidate Kerryn Phelps who placed climate change at the top of her policy platform. As we know she gained a tsunami of votes in what was historically a safe Liberal seat,” he said.

“Policy certainty on climate change and emissions mitigation are critical to people and the environment, and would unlock investment in new clean energy generation.”

He said the Smart Energy Council will support whichever party supports good renewable energy policy.

Back to Kelly who told the Press Club:  “For the sceptics out there, it is worth remembering ACF was born from conservative roots. The initial spark for ACF was Prince Philip. The first person ever to address the National Press Club was Chief Justice Sir Garfield Barwick in 1963 – who also happened to be a Liberal politician and ACF’s first President.

“We want a race to the top like we see in conservative-led countries like the UK, Germany and Denmark and progressive- led countries like France and New Zealand.

“We will only achieve lasting climate action, when parties with progressive and conservative values come together.”

She warned “those in the house up the hill” that if they ignored climate change they did so at their own political peril.

“Wentworth was a warning shot.  The mood of the nation is changing. We don’t want your thoughts and prayers, we want action.”

Well bad news Kelly and company – this week the Coalition energy minister showed his determination to rush though agreement for more coal plants early next year before federal parliament heads into caretaker mode. It’s a clear indication of his lack of interest in pursuing a clean energy agenda.

Oliver Yates echoed the views of many when he told Fairfax “If [Energy minister Angus Taylor] thinks the taxpayer should take a risk that the private sector is unwilling to take then that’s extraordinary … is it irresponsible for the government to take that risk? In this circumstance it is,” the former head of the Clean Energy Finance Corporation says, [as] this proves the government’s tender is anything but technology neutral.

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