Will Climate Change Impact The Australian Election?

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This Saturday, Australians will go to the polls in the country’s federal election, and there are some who are saying the issue of climate change is going to play a big role in how people vote.

Turnbull-Shorten-1In a year which has seen Britain vote to leave the European Union and the American election pull into top-gear, Australia is also sending its population to the polls in its federal election. Incumbent Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, head of the Australian Liberal Party (who aren’t actually liberals), faces off against Bill Shorten, Leader of the Opposition, the Australian Labor Party (who aren’t liberals either). More than ever, however, in this two-party system, the Greens (actual liberals), led by Richard Di Natale, may play spoiler for any hopes Shorten has for unseating his rival.

Despite occasional opinion pieces suggesting the issue of climate change — and its obligatory companions, clean energy and environment — will again play a significant role in voting, very few seem to consider the environment as one of their top election issues.

According to Vote Compass — a tool developed by political scientists in Australia to help voters work out who they should vote for — very few states in Australia are seeing the environment as a top electoral issue. Four out of the country’s nine states and territories rank the environment in their top 3 election issues — and it was third out of three for three out of those four states.

The Sydney Morning Herald deemed ‘Climate Change’ one of its “Eight issues guaranteed to define the campaign” back in early May, the “second in a row to feature climate change as a major battleground.” However, the ‘first in a row’ saw climate change become a battleground only insomuch as then-Opposition Leader Tony Abbott could make hay out of his plan to scrap the carbon tax, and profess his undying love for coal. This time around, if people are thinking of climate change and the environment at all, it has more to do with how much renewable energy the various parties are willing to commit to, and who is more committed than the other to cleaning up and protecting the Great Barrier Reef.

Interestingly, according to Vote Compass again, new figures show that a “significant majority of Australians” are actually in favor of putting the price back on carbon emissions — three years out from Tony Abbott’s successful scrapping of the tax, a move that he has long-since proclaimed won him the election. Specifically, 63% of Australians now support a price on carbon emissions, up from 50% during the 2013 election.

Nevertheless, despite the few data points shown above, the results of Essential Report’s “Most important election issues” seem to be a more representative survey of the Australian population’s interest in the environment and fighting climate change — with the two issues coming in at 9 and 10 respectively, 13% and 12% respectively.

More than ever, the Australian 2016 Federal Election is simply a choice between the lesser of two weevils.

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Joshua S Hill

I'm a Christian, a nerd, a geek, and I believe that we're pretty quickly directing planet-Earth into hell in a handbasket! I also write for Fantasy Book Review (.co.uk), and can be found writing articles for a variety of other sites. Check me out at about.me for more.

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