August 22 - 28, 2021: Issue 507


Mackellar voters urged to hold Morrison Government to account on climate by Independent politicians and climate experts

Independent MP Zali Steggall, Dr Richard Denniss (Chief Economist, The Australia Institute), Independent Northern Beaches Mayor Michael Regan and Ian Dunlop (former oil, gas and coal industry executive) have collectively called on voters in Mackellar to hold the Morrison Government to account at the next election if it does not show leadership on climate change. 

Ms. Steggall went further calling out the Coalition for peddling climate misinformation commenting: “It’s concerning that even in the face of such a stark warning as what the IPCC report showed, Coalition MPs including the member for Mackellar are sending out misleading information about Australia’s contribution to global warming as a high emitting per capita country.”

The comments were made during an online community forum held on Wednesday night, August 18, by community group Voices of Mackellar, which the local Liberal MP Jason Falinski was unable to attend. In a statement Mr Falinski said he could not attend as he was “focusing on the immediate needs of the community” in relation to the COVID-19 pandemic.   

The Environment, Climate and Leadership forum was attended virtually by almost 200 members of the northern beaches electorate of Mackellar with discussion focusing on climate policy in Australia, the influence of donors in Canberra, the phasing out of fossil fuels and what communities can do to accelerate action on climate change. 

The forum follows the release of the Mackellar Matters Report which identified climate change as the electorate’s number one issue ahead of the next federal election. Mackellar locals were able to ask questions with 16-year old Will Cassell asking panellists “How can the Australian economy move away from fossil fuels in a way that doesn't spark more toxic climate wars?”

Ian Dunlop, former oil, gas and coal industry executive and current advisory board member for the Breakthrough National Centre for Climate Restoration, praised young people for pushing older generations to do more on climate change before adding: “Australia needs to make fundamental societal change. After 30 years of global negotiation the world has achieved nothing in terms of reducing carbon emissions; as a society we must now say no more fossil fuel expansion - coal, oil or gas - full stop. Australia has a far greater responsibility to act than most other countries.”

Richard Denniss, Chief Economist, The Australia Institute also said: “The problem in Australia is we are the third largest exporter of fossil fuels and while the fossil fuel industry makes up a tiny percentage of our jobs, it takes up an enormous amount of space in our parliament. 

“Australia isn’t transitioning away from fossil fuels, we are still building new mines and oil wells because so many of our political representatives say more fossil fuels are good even though the world’s scientists say they are harming the entire planet. Every politician says they’re doing their best, but we need them to do better. It’s our job to keep them honest.”

Independent Northern Beaches Mayor Michael Regan added that while climate policy was a national issue, local governments were often left to pay the bill when natural disasters strike: “Climate change doesn’t respect local government boundaries, and councils are left to deal with the costs of climate change. You just need to look at the impact of rising sea levels and the cost of the Collaroy seawall to see we need federal leadership.” 

Looking ahead to the next election, Zali Steggall said: “We don’t have leadership in Canberra when it comes to climate change. The Coalition has weaponised the issue of climate policy to divide Australians and they are not doing any long term planning as they are more concerned about winning the next election.

“Politicians in Canberra are only there because they have been voted in by their electorates. MPs have ample opportunity to vote on issues that matter to their community, so my advice is to check your MPs voting record before the next election and to remember that your vote at the ballot box is your most powerful weapon when it comes to climate change.”

Following the event Leonie Scarlett, President of Voices of Mackellar, said: “The fact that nearly 200 people joined us for the forum shows just how important climate change will be at the next election for people in Mackellar.

“It was great for locals to hear from the panellists about what needs to happen to accelerate much needed action on climate change. I know that many people were inspired by what the panellists had to say giving us renewed hope that people in Mackellar can play their part in tackling climate change.

“We hope Mr. Falinski can attend a future Voices of Mackellar public forum.” 

The Environment, Climate and Leadership forum was the first of many planned by Voices of Mackellar in the lead up to the next election. Each forum will focus on an issue outlined in the Mackellar Matters Report, which analysed conversations with nearly 450 locals. The report identified climate change and the environment, the influence of lobbyists and donors on politics, and growing inequality in society as the key concerns of Mackellar voters.

A recording of the one-hour panel discussion is available here and is also embedded below. You can also download the Mackellar Matters Report here.

Federal Member for Mackellar, Jason Falinski MP, was unable to attend the forum. His full statement has been provided below:

“Thank you for the opportunity to participate in the forum, however, at this time during a lockdown caused by a global pandemic with families separated, children not at school, people kept from work, and good businesses being turned bad, not to mention the mental health burdens that will come from this, I feel I should focus on the immediate needs of my community.  Specifically, getting our community out of lockdown as soon as possible.”