Election 2022 analysis: Relief, jubilation, excitement. That’s the feeling across the board for anyone who cares about climate and sustainability on the landslide election on Saturday night. 

It’s a landslide not just for climate too for equity, Indigenous People, women, gender equity and for justice in general.

Suddenly the world seems lighter. We know there are no magic bullets, but the win by the Australian Labor Party and an estimated 16 teals and Greens feels like we’re no longer hobbled by a government trying to actively stop progress on climate. “Like we’re not wearing concrete boots”, as one keen observer and Greens supporter said on Sunday.

The Greens have proved they are the most logical voice for an electorate that is now seriously concerned about climate impact now – not just in 20 or 50 years’ time.

Their win was amazing, fantastic.

Congratulations to Adam Bandt and his army of tireless supporters. In the seat of Griffith, they doorknocked every house, they say – 30,000 of them.

But the Greens are strong too on social equity issues, as we made clear in our pre-election coverage analysis.

But the independents were even more successful. Swarming the cross benches now on platforms that most, if not all, have climate action at their centre. Their commitment seems to be mainly to political integrity and local issues so their commitment to social/equity issues might vary in intensity, depending on local concerns, which clearly take centre stage for them after climate.

But their origin from mainly the conservative side of politics, centre Liberals mainly, proves what we’ve been saying since Day Dot of The Fifth Estate: that the fight for the climate inevitably and logically needs to transcend all party political agendas. It has to because it’s an existential crisis.

The Liberal National Coalition we’ve had in power for nearly a decade has given rise to its own goal here. And the anger of many others. It deliberately, brazenly, and cynically dismissed concerns about our climate and environment under a blanket of arrogance.

When we first heard about the teals (ahead of most other media we believe), then known as the Voices of movement, and brought it to our readers’ attention, there was a strong feeling this movement would be successful but grow.

But who knew it would be so successful? Forecasters told us last week that the the teals would take one or two seats at the most.

Amazing.

The ALP of course, under the leadership of Anthony Albanese, (who’s contributed a few articles to our site in the past) needs to be congratulated for taking just the fourth Labor government to victory since the Second World War.

Unfortunately, it was on a very diminished platform compared to the cornucopia of policies of the last election, which included some strong environmental and social sustainability reforms.

Sadly, these served only to provide fuel for a destructive media pack led by the Murdoch empire, hell bent on twisting and distorting ideas to create fear and confusion among less informed voters to such a degree that it leaves Vladimir Putin in the shade.

But things are what they are and we have only available materials to work with to help clarify, debate and discuss the most important issues of our time.

With luck and the support of all our 60,000 monthly readers (much higher in recent weeks),  we can hope to bring to the table ideas for climate stability, environmental and social  sustainability. 

The property industry has a special obligation now. It’s the most mature industry in climate and sustainability. It has an exemplary and committed leadership.

It’s got a track record of ambition on sustainability and collaboration that means it knows how to gather disparate groups in a commonality of objectives that benefits all.

It has amazing industry pilots to guide our way. Organisations such as the Green Building Council, Australian Sustainable Built Environment Council, NABERS, The Total Environment Centre and so many more.

We hope the leaders of these and other outfits have woken on Monday to a job that is easier. Not so they can work less hard, but so they can now use all that energy they previously needed to negotiate the dead wood to go wider, deeper, and be more effective.

There are so many more champions in government organisations who have worked away often on their own or in small subterranean groups, undeterred.  

To you too, we owe a huge debt of gratitude.

A special big shout out also to leaders in the private sector, in property and all its related fields, who kept making steady dogged progress.

At the very top of our pantheon of heroes is the insurance and finance and investment sectors, not so much because they’ve been at the front of the battle from the start (most were not) but because they did the thing that speaks the loudest of all voices in our world – they aligned with exquisite precision the economic and investment interests of their stakeholders with the welfare of the planet.

Bravo to the cavalry!

Today the property industry is tooled up, mature, advanced. It’s even tackling the challenging embodied carbon sector and all electric buildings. Against all the odds.

Now it’s time to start looking outwards and lead other sectors. Show them how to engineer serious and much faster change than ever before.

The Labor Party went into this election with almost invisible policy platforms. Making itself a small target after the last federal election was inevitable.

And its primary vote is not enormous.

But whether it wins a clear majority or not it’s clear the people have spoken. 

Both Labor and the Liberal National Party Coalition which suffered huge losses need to take heed of the big winners on the night, the teals and the Greens.

What happened on Saturday is not a wave of Greens and independents, it’s a tsunami.

The people have spoken very loudly, very clearly on climate and on equity issues.

They want change and they want it now.

Both Labor and Libs have no choice but to join with the cross benches to give the people what they want.

They are our servants. It’s what we pay them for. 

Our job is to make them do their job.

Here are a few things they start with (but there will be more, we promise) :

  • fast track net zero to 2030
  • Australia to stand up as a global leader on net zero and work to celebrate the leaders and persuade the laggards to go fast as possible, with equity at the core
  • raise the profile of built environment and allow it to lead other sectors in collaborative change
  • recognise and respect that buildings are nearly 40 per cent of all emissions and cities 70 per cent, when transport is included
  • start the serious understanding of resilience and that those who are less well resourced are the people who most exposed to climate impact
  • remove the fear around the words regulation and policing, when it comes to safety and the wellbeing of the whole nation. Think of seatbelts: they are necessary and they save us a lot of lives and health costs yet the auto industry fought black and blue to stop this “invasion of consumer choice”
  • work towards national land use planning that creates a framework around safe and vulnerable areas. If necessary, tell the states to get out of the way. See the NSW Place and Design SEPP for guidance on the lack of confidence state governments have to stand up to self-interest groups who “don’t know/don’t care” about the rest of us 
  • enforce true economic rationalism by expanding the terms of reference on cost benefit analysis to encapsulate broader and longer term impacts on society where the mid term benefits outweigh short term costs. For instance,  greater energy efficiency standards in the National Construction Code need to incorporate health and social costs and benefits, not just the loss of profit for the private electricity providers
  • embark on a powerful national social housing program – refer to post war programs and their immense success in housing and how that “made Australia great”
  • create a carbon budget for buildings –  see New York’s Local Law 97 for guidance

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  1. As you rightfully point out buildings are a very big contribution to emissions. Estimates are that carbon footprint to build a small home is around 80 tons. I am appalled that no one in this election has discussed the climate and social (housing affordability) implications of the estimated 80,000 homes sitting empty in Sydney alone mostly as a direct result of the residential property market being turned into a money making machine supported by tax incentives for investors along with a safe place for foreign buyers to park their money. Would be interesting to know the numbers across Australia but building homes while so many are empty is just bad on so many fronts.

    1. There’s an excellent little story we’re publishing now from Alan Pears that totally agrees with you. I too think it’s a massive waste to have empty houses. In some parts of the world there is an extra tax imposed for this disgraceful use of our scarce and precious buildings for asset building instead of housing.

  2. It troubles me greatly that the Fifth Estate is uncritically touting for the building industry. Yes credit where it is due for energy efficiency. But what about those platoons of black rooves (low albedo, low efficiency) and the crowding together for max profit and minimum capacity for natural cooling from foliage. Then there’s the big elephant in the room. The Lendlease Gilead housjng development. This will seriously obstruct a movement corridor for the precious Chlamydia-free Campbelltown koala colony. And the associated fauna exclusion fencing on the east side of Appin Rd will trap them in fire when their bushland burns. Lendlease says it will build a few underpasses for koala movement. A recently reported study by Dr Ben Allen of Southern Cross University shows that these underpasses are ineffective. Over a year a suite of road bypasses (including underpasses) in southern Qld were used by just one koala, while 6 died on the same stretch of highway. Even if underpasses were the solution, Lendlease has started tree clearing works before constructing the bypasses, in direct contravention of a recommendation by a NSW Parliamentary committee last November. The koala has recently been declared Endangered in NSW and Lendlease has no regard for one of the most significant colonies in NSW. How is this a benchmark of sustainability?

    1. Hi, Sherrie, so glad to get your comments and strong feelings on sustainability. It’s always massively encouraging for our work to see this. And of course, it’s impossible to read everything but I would love to point you to the several stories we’ve done about the insanity of black roofs (where temperatures reach 80 degrees CELSIUS!) and unsustainable housing as advocated by a certain part of the development industry that made sure the sane, logical and more equitable planning policies of former NSW planning minister Rob Stokes were rejected the moment they managed to remove him from his former role. See this collection on the black roofs fiasco. https://thefifthestate.com.au/?s=black+roofs
      Our self-appointed mandate I like to see is to help fast track sustainability in the built environment. So we write a lot about how to create more sustainable development. The built environment is one of the biggest creators of emissions. We have also written a very extensive article on the Lendlease development at Figtree Hill and i think a very well-balanced, extensively researched one. https://thefifthestate.com.au/innovation/building-construction/the-battle-for-figtree-hill-and-the-koala-corridor/