‘Climate emergency’: Batman candidates go head to head

Community members filled Northcote Town Hall on Tuesday to discuss the climate emergency. Pictures: Kathryn Lewis


environment editor

Both major candidates for the Batman by-election are fighting to convince voters they can tackle the climate “emergency”. 

Next Saturday’s election is likely to be close – Labor holds the marginal seat by 1 per cent. 

“I assure you all that I will be doing everything I can to put our country and my own party’s policies on an emergency footing,” Greens candidate Alex Bhathal said, at a climate forum last week. 

Labor candidate Ged Kearney said she would work to change the national discourse around climate change.

“I would make sure that people understood the urgency,” she said.

Carbon emission targets a hot topic

At the forum, Batman community members expressed concern at emissions targets being too low to deal with the current rate of global warming.

Ms Kearney spoke passionately of Labor’s “ambitious” 50 per cent reduction in emissions by 2030.

“There is science in our targets, but by no means do we stop there,” she said. 

Greens candidate for Batman Alex Bhathal speaking at the forum.

“That first 50 per cent is going to involve building the infrastructure, transitioning out of economies, doing all of the hard work that we know has to be done to implement a clean energy economy.”

Looking beyond setting targets, Ms Bhathal said the Greens’ transition plan for workers in the mining industry was a moral responsibility she took “very seriously”.

“It is critical that we actively plan a transition for them, we have a clean energy transition fund and a plan to protect the futures of these workers,” she said.

Stance on Adani’s Carmichael mine

Protesters of Adani’s controversial Carmichael coal mine came out in force, questioning Labor’s stance on the issue.

Ms Kearney said Labor would not give Adani taxpayer money “under any circumstances”, however she did not commit to using evidence of detrimental environmental impact to stop the mine from going ahead.

“We are not in government. If we were in government and that evidence was before us, I am not saying that we wouldn’t use it,” she said.

Ms Bhathal maintained a strong stance against the mine, committing her party to doing “whatever it takes” to stop the mine from going ahead.

Loss of habitat is a major threat to Leadbeater’s Possums. Picture: Wikipedia

“Look at the 64,000 jobs in the Queensland economy that rely on the Great Barrier Reef. We cannot afford for the Carmichael mine to be built,” she said.

“In the time we’ve been fighting the Adani Carmichael Mine, there have been 13 new coal mines approved. The greens have a clear policy of phasing out coal,”

A review of regional forest agreements

Ahead of a review of regional forest agreements, voters showed concern of a possible rollover of the 20-year-old plan.

Ms Bhathal committed to opposing the rollover of the agreements, which have “crippled our ability in this state to manage our climate impacts”.

Over-harvesting of Australia’s forests has left the Leadbeater possum critically endangered with only 1.16 per cent of its habitat in Victoria’s mountain ash forest estate left unburned and unharvested.

Forests regenerating from clearfelling are also at a higher risk of burning more severely.

“I think the RFAs need to be reviewed and changed. Any of those changes have to take into account all of the uses we have for our forests, whether it’s recreational, or carbon,” Ms Kearney said.