The November 2018 state election was a landslide. Labor claimed a whopping 57.3 percent of the two-party preferred vote, giving them 55 of the seats in the lower house. The Greens retained three seats, and with three regional independents, the Coalition has just 27 seats. The scale of the swing meant the Coalition lost seats previously thought to be “safe”, like Hawthorn, Nepean and Box Hill.
Independent polling conducted by Roy Morgan found that a key concern about the Liberal party amongst those who intended to vote Labor was the Liberals’ poor positions on climate change, clean energy and the environment. Exit polling by Channel Nine on election day found renewable energy to be a pivotal issue for 23 percent of voters. The public is now demonstrably voting for climate action and environmental protection.
So now we expect the Andrews government to deliver on these issues.
The Victorian Environment Protection Authority (EPA) will decide by June whether to put limits on how much carbon dioxide our three coal power stations can pump into the atmosphere each year. This is a crucial step in cutting our climate pollution. In recent months thousands of you have signed petitions and handed out flyers, calling on the EPA and the state government to put pollution limits on power stations.
Around the same time an independent panel chaired by former federal Climate Change Minister Greg Combet, is due to provide advice to the government about what emissions targets the Andrews government should set for 2025 and 2030 under the Climate Change Act. The panel’s advice will be made public by June, and the government needs to make a final decision by next March.
The government also needs to reintroduce a Bill to Parliament to establish the Latrobe Valley Mine Rehabilitation Authority. This would create an independent body to oversee and coordinate mine rehabilitation in the Latrobe Valley coal mines, as well as pass a much-needed update to the rules that establish what good rehabilitation looks like and make sure mining companies don’t leave behind a mess.
Amendments to the Flora and Fauna Guarantee Act failed to pass in 2018. The Andrews government needs to improve its track record on protecting nature, and the proposed amendments last term fell far short of what was needed. Victoria’s Regional Forest Agreements are also under review. We hope a new term and an easier path through Parliament will embolden the government to improve threatened species protection.
Finally the Andrews government has committed to developing a Circular Economy Policy. This could be an antidote to the waste crisis we are in and to the broader epidemic of the environmental impact of our high-consumption lifestyles. We expect public consultation later this year.
Together these issues will be a test of whether the Andrews government makes the most of its strong position to make Victoria a leader for our climate and environment. We’ll be there every step of the way to make sure they do!
This article appeared in Environment Victoria News, Issue 31, Autumn 2019.