The tide has turned in Victoria on sustainability and climate, and it will continue to turn nationally.
Labor on Saturday knocked off a government that was hostile to sustainability and climate action. On Tuesday afternoon The Greens officially claimed their first Lower House seat in the electorate of Melbourne, when sitting Labor MP Jennifer Kanis conceded to The Greens’ Ellen Sandell in a tightly fought contest.
Adding to the greener vibe down south was the unlikely success of the Sex Party, which supports sustainability along with a host of other liberal and humane policies, with sex industry lobbyist Fiona Patten on target to take a seat in the Senate.
The Shooters and Fishers Party, however, also look like they’ve expanded their influence from NSW where they have caused environmental havoc with promotion of shooting in national parks and support for land clearing. In Melbourne they are expected to snare between two and four seats possible in the upper house.
What’s interesting in Victoria is the rise of environmental issues much further up the scale of concerns.
That’s in line with the surveys by outfits such as the Lowy Institute and the Climate Council that say public support has bottomed and is on the way up.
We saw it too in the “people’s panel” story we ran last week, People’s panel: citizens tell Melbourne where to go.
What 43 randomly chosen people said they wanted when they were put together in a room with all the information was “sustainability as a key priority; roads and parking spots ripped up for bike lanes; more open space; and increasing rates to pay for it all”.
We’re not sure about everyone else, but to us that sounds like a movement on the way.
In some ways the election in Victoria on Saturday was to be expected. It’s hard to remember such vitriol against a Coalition government from business people, which is always a bad sign. You expect it from the average person in the street who is used to being cynical, and often for good reason. But for business people to say a conservative government is hopeless – and worse sentiments – which we heard over and over, is really making a point.
The words of one engineer early this year, that he did not know of anyone in his industry who would vote for the Victorian Coalition, resonated like a death knell even then.
During this government’s term, we’ve carried countless stories on a kind of stunned mullet approach to government – inaction and some kind of paralysing fear such as the banal refusal to release reports. When there was action, it was of a kind that caters to the status quo and fails to deliver value and vision. Like roads and tunnels with billions taken away from rail transport to pay for them, so the allegations go.
There was the dumping of the hugely popular, useful and money saving Greener Government Buildings Program; the determination to axe the Victorian Energy Efficiency Target, the decision to align with another newly elected climate-antagonistic Campbell Newman in Queensland to dump mandatory disclosure of energy efficiency in housing, which had been slated for adoption by the Council of Australian Governments. As if transparency amounted to a socialist plot. As if some businesses have the right to hoodwink their customers.
What this election shows is that logic surfaces in the end. Like an oil slick on water, it can’t be mixed up with the good stuff forever and passed off as “fine”. Like carbon bubbles in the air, it rises and does the damage it was always going to do, when you allow too much of it to escape the earth.
You can create clever ads for the mining industry with women teary eyed about the wonderful opportunity they have been gifted to drive Euclids and earn bucketloads of money. But in the end the same viewers will catch a glimpse of reports that show how pitifully few actual jobs mining creates, how little tax mining companies pay – and the advertising message will sink like a stone.
A one-term government is rare. But it shows that the electorate no longer cares about precedent or tradition. They read, they Tweet, they care about their kids.
And they’re not so easily duped into parting with the things it cares about.
We don’t know what Labor leader Daniel Andrews thinks yet.
But there’s a big bell still ringing from Saturday that should resonate for three years to come, all the way to Canberra and around the country.
The people want rational, logical government.
Well bring you a round up of industry reactions later this week.