Responsible commitment to both economic development and pragmatic action on carbon emissions may arrest the volatility evident in recent Newspolls in the week after Labor’s election launch.
While Labor is still ahead after preferences on both the latest Ipsos and Newspolls, the trendlines are less predictable in some of the most marginal metropolitan and regional seats.
In other marginal seats like Leichhardt in North Queensland, Labor’s chances are boosted by a complex electoral geography, concern about global warming and the likely retirement of LNP member Warren Entsch who enters his seventieth year later this month. The challenges posed by the final vote after preferences are well captured in the current Newspoll (The Australian Online 6 May 2019):
In Leichhardt, the federal LNP hopes that its scare campaign to a more conservative support base in parts of Cairns and adjacent country towns might work yet again. Warren Entsch is trying hard to hold back the mood for change (4CA Online 11 April 2019):
“Labor, the unions and southern activist groups will run a campaign based on lies in a bid to scare you into voting for them. “This is nothing new – they do it every election – don’t be a mug and fall for their lies.”
“Bill Shorten and the Labor Party pose a very real risk to our way of life here in Far North Queensland – I fear we will lose our identity, as a nation and region, if they are elected.”
A newer generation of scriptwriters who maintain 4CA’s web site for Cairns on behalf of the 56 station strong Grant Broadcasters’ Network across metropolitan and regional Australia do acknowledge the importance of environmental issues for the maintenance of a sustainable economy in the wet tropics and savanna landscapes of North Queensland (4CA Online 17 April 2019):
New polling finds Queenslanders are just as concerned about environmental issues as their southern counterparts, dispelling a political divide as Australians prepare to cast their vote.
The Australia Institute survey found 60 per cent of Victorians and 57 per cent of Queenslanders believe Australia is facing a climate change emergency.
The polling comes after internal struggles within the coalition over federal approvals for the Adani coal mine, with Victorian MPs reportedly concerned about the impact on their vote while their Queensland counterparts said their state strongly supported the project.
The survey found more people in Queensland (56 per cent) than Victoria (51 per cent) support the government mobilising climate efforts, as they mobilised people during world wars.
Just over three in five Australians across all states support a rapid transition to renewable energy, while a similar number support the switch to an electric transport system.
Positive Outcomes from the BAE’s Report on Labor’s Carbon Emissions Strategies
As Bill Shorten claimed in the first Leaders’ Debate, pragmatic and bipartisan action on climate change is hardly an economic cost in the long-term. Recent discussion of this report can be beneficial in seats like Leichhardt with the Barrier Reef under threat from market economics and so many fragile wet tropical and savanna ecosystems to be protected between Cairns and the remotest Torres Strait islands.
Quantifying pragmatic commitment to climate change was never a defining cornerstone in the well-publicized report from Dr Brian Fisher at the Bureau of Agricultural Economics (BAE) released on 1 May 2019.
Sensationalizing these costings has been part of the fear campaign by Australian conservatives and the mainstream media on Dr Fisher’s report. Four scenario options are compared with the costs of doing nothing about climate change:
The worst environmental consequences would surely eventuate if a pragmatic coalition emerged between the federal LNP and the far-right of Australian politics after 18 May through the vast financial resources available to Clive Palmer’s UAP in the allocation of preferences in marginal seats and the possibility of winning one or more senate spots (The West Australian Online 6 May 2019):
Analysis by The West Australian shows that less than two months of royalties from CITIC Pacific’s Sino Iron project in the Pilbara could cover the reported $50 million advertising spend that has secured his United Australia Party 5 per cent of the national vote in Newspoll and may make Mr Palmer a major Canberra player.
Mr Palmer last month revealed he had spent $50 million on election advertising and claimed his United Australia Party would win government.
“We’ve spent $50 million, and just three weeks ago everyone said: ‘Why is Mr Palmer doing this, it’s all for nothing, he won’t get any votes’,” he said.
Legal action by Clive Palmer is also attempting to delay the release of preference flows from the UAP until polling closes in the Cocos Islands at 21.30 AEST on election night (ABC News Online 6 May 2019). Even if this legal action fails, it gives added publicity to Clive Palmer and the UAP in marginal seats.
Diversionary attention-seeking by sections of the mainstream media has allowed market ideology to intrude on growing support for climate change as an election agenda in marginal seats like Dawson and Leichhardt.
Doing less than Labor’s 45 per cent emission reduction target over the next decade simply magnifies the threat posed by greenhouse emissions as shown by the trendlines from the existing Reference Group data in the BAE Report.
There are a range of cost estimates for Scenarios 1-4 during the forthcoming decade (2021-2030) which continue to protect Emission Intensive Trade Exposed Industries (EITEs) to maintain Australia’s international trading competitiveness (The Australian Online 2 May 2019):
Estimating the costs of emission controls for the entire decade ahead is a near impossible task with enormous variables in the costs of electricity generation and the purchase of carbon credits alone. No one defining cost estimate is really possible as requested by sections of the mainstream media.
Added to these variables are the costs of direct action by governments at all levels especially through transport initiatives, tree-clearing barriers and development planning controls in both regional and urban areas.
The Far North Queensland Regional Plan (2009-2031) covers environmental sustainability options for the Cairns Region in the federal electorates that include just parts of Leichhardt and Kennedy. Other Regional Plans extends to Cape York and Torres Strait.
Preparation to control the effects of Climate Change are embedded into all the State Regional Plans for North Queensland but are inadequately funded by the federal government. The financial resources available to the state government from federal grants and GFC sharing are beyond the capacity needed for effective implementation of the options which are well-documented in the planning documents.
Skewing development from greenfield to urban infill near existing urban centres is crucial for the protection of fragile ecosystems across North Queensland. The different options available are well canvassed in the development plans but need more supportive federal government funding.
Dissipating federal revenues through tax concessions to the wealthiest families is a Lose-Lose Scenario that helps neither the environment nor the householders themselves in the longer-term.
In desperation, local authorities tolerate more clearing of forests on vegetated slopes to bring metropolitan cul-de-sacs to the fringes of pristine ecosystems. Greenfield subdivisions promote sites with views of the ranges and coastlines when environmentally aware home-makers should be more discriminating about preferred locations. Personal lifestyles and food consumption patterns are also vitally important as Bill Shorten has demonstrated in his commitment to electric cars and the need for restraint in the compulsive eating of high energy fatty foods.
Personal Choice and Environmental Emissions
Personal initiatives can be extended to a more critical analysis of news sources which seek to promote emission controls as a cost rather than a long-term solution to global warming. As the BAE Report itself shows, there is no real price tag available for pragmatic emission control through a complex array of carbon purchase options, electricity generation plans, direct government action and lifestyle choices.
Thanks to the students who supported the School Strike 4 Climate on 3 May to bring some utopian hope back into national politics. Hopefully, there will be more such events before election day like the assembly outside Warren Entsch’s office in Mulgrave Road in support of North Queensland’s fragile tropical and reef ecosystems.
Campaigning in the next ten days might still see Labor’s Elida Faith off to Canberra when preference allocations are finally resolved after 18 May.
Denis Bright is a member of the Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance (MEAA). Denis has qualifications in journalism, public policy and international relations. He is committed to citizens’ journalism by promoting discussion of topical issues from a critical structuralist perspective. Readers are encouraged to continue the discussions in this current series of Trending Issues for Australians in this election year.
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