Election special: double disillusionment in major parties

Intro

With the 2016 double dissolution election vote and another hung parliament looming, the Coalition government is pleading with voters to focus on economic stability, but unfortunately for it there will be no solace from volatility without strong action on climate change.

The Coalition’s record is decided lacklustre on almost every environmental metric according to WWF and ACF, on every climate metric according to AYCC, and on every climate and health opportunity according to CAHA. Its emissions reduction targets are inadequate, it has no discernible plan to decarbonise the Australian economy, and its actions to date show that it is moving in the exact opposite direction.

Its abolishment of the carbon price has set Australia’s emissions growing again, and Australians are paying $90 a tonne for the privilege. Its relentless “ideological war” on renewables has cost the country thousands of jobs and untold investment, and its oversight of dramatic job cuts at the CSIRO is leaving us flying blind into a future of more frequent and extreme weather events.

The company tax cut at the centre of the government’s re-election pitch will see 40 per cent of its benefits flow overseas at a time when experts say $10 billion is urgently needed to protection the Great Barrier Reef and its $6 billion tourism industry. It has pledged $1 billion, but has resorted to self-defeating raids on renewable energy to pay for this fraction of the needed amount, undermining a future growth engine for the economy and making the task of reducing emissions harder again.

Fortunately, the clean energy transition – particularly solar – marches on regardless, as the benefits to families, the environment and the economy are clearer and more profound than ever before. To speed this development, protect the reef, and capitalise on the vast opportunities green growth offers, the handbrake must be taken off both renewables and climate action as soon as the double dissolution dust settles.

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Key Points

  • Stability, jobs, and future prosperity all count on strong policies to protect our environment and address climate change. The Coalition continues to coast on a reputation for economic competence, but it has displayed little in the way of reforms that will deliver the clean and renewable energy-powered economy of the future. Quite the opposite, with its relentless attacks on renewable energy, green-lighting of huge new coal mega-mines, and support for other destructive fossil projects. Its policies have already seen a reversal of Australia’s previously declining fossil fuel emissions, worsening climate change and the frequency, intensity, and disruptive impacts of extreme weather events.
  • The Reef and renewables are key issues this election, and the Government is weak on both. The Coalition has resorted to incredible tactics to obscure the dire threats looming over the Great Barrier Reef, but this has not stopped UNESCO reportedly again considering putting it on its “in danger” list during the Coalition’s watch. Despite scientists and experts repeatedly crying out about the reef bleaching crisis, only a fraction of the $10 billion needed to urgently protect the reef has been promised. Even then it has come at the expense of renewable energy, further holding back progress on the reduction of emissions that are doing so much to threaten the reef in the first place.

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Key Quotes

  • “Climate science jobs have been cut, enormous new coal mines have been approved, UN reports on climate change have been censored, and we’ve witnessed an inadequate response to the worst bleaching of the Great Barrier Reef in recorded history. We’ve seen absolutely no commitment from the prime minister to tackle the root cause of climate change and coral bleaching, which is carbon pollution from mining and burning fossil fuels such as coal. Mr Turnbull’s inaction is devastating for the Great Barrier Reef and for the millions of Australians who want to see real leadership on climate change.” – Greenpeace Australia Pacific chief executive David Ritter
  • “The major parties in Australia are missing in action when it comes to protecting the health of the population from threats of climate change. With climate change recognised as the biggest threat to global public health of this century, the failure of the Liberal and National parties to announce any policies to reduce these risks means a future Liberal-National government will profoundly fail its duty of care to protect its citizens from a serious threat.” – Climate and Health Alliance President Dr Liz Hanna
  • “The Coalition’s $1 billion loan announcement is an existing climate fund rebadged as a Reef water quality initiative and there is very little information as to how it can accelerate and transform the actions of farmers wanting to improve Reef water quality. Labor’s promise to increase funds by $377 million is a good down payment, but it’s not enough to secure the future of the $6 billion Reef tourism industry. The clock is ticking. Our next government needs to redouble efforts to demonstrate to UNESCO and the world that Australia, as the planet’s custodian of the Great Barrier Reef, is prepared to make the difficult choices to keep the Reef out of danger.” – WWF-Australia CEO Dermot O’Gorman
  • “With election day just days away it might be too late for us to get the parties to change their policies, but it’s not too late for us to let Australians know where the parties stand. “The Liberal/National Coalition is the only political group on our scorecard that comes in under 50 – and its mark of 14 is well below a pass. It’s unacceptable for the incumbent government to run a small target strategy on climate change – the biggest issue facing our nation. In a year when 93 per cent of the Great Barrier Reef has been affected by coral bleaching – a direct result of warmer than usual waters – voters expect the people who want to represent them in Parliament to have strong plans to get Australia off coal, onto renewables and to make our energy systems much more efficient.” – Australian Conservation Foundation CEO Kelly O’Shanassy
  • “The war on solar has been devastating for the solar industry. Investment in household and business solar has fallen to a 7-year low and investment in renewable energy has fallen a staggering 88 per cent. The sunburnt country has burnt its solar industry. Thousands of jobs have been lost and hundreds of small businesses have closed their doors. The Turnbull/Abbott government must be judged on its record.” – Australian Solar Council CEO, John Grimes

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