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September 23, 2019
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Climate change takes centre stage in Australia’s elections

Climate change has taken centre stage in the ongoing campaign for the Australian elections going to be held on May 18, 2019.

The incumbent Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison is feeling the heat of the backlash of his love for fossil fuel-fired projects.  Some two years ago, Scott Morrison stood up to address the Australian parliament while brandishing a lump of coal in his right hand.

“Don’t be afraid. Don’t be scared. It won’t hurt you. It’s coal,” said Mr Morrison, who was treasurer at the time.

Little did he know then that he would be fighting the 2019 election as prime minister, and that a burning love of fossil fuels could prove fatal to his chances of keeping the job.

The political playbook, handed down from one generation to the next, tells candidates to focus on the economy if they want to win. No doubt it will once again be vitally important to many voters in the polling booths on 18 May.

In an ABC poll of more than 100,000 Australian voters, it’s clear the environment has become the number one issue for most respondents.

Twenty-nine per cent rated it as their biggest concern, up from just 9 percent in the 2016 election.

Long-term polling by the Lowy Institute also suggests there has been a shift in public attitudes, with more people seeing climate change as a serious, pressing problem.

Internationally, Australians appear to care more than most about climate change, according to a new study published by Ipsos.

Prof David Schlosberg of Sydney University says the trend is a result of people in Australia seeing the impact of environmental change first-hand, after a summer of record temperatures and drought.

“It’s not only the visibility of increasing threats to environments – fish die-offs, reef bleaching, species extinctions, bushfires,” says Prof Schlosberg.

“But [it’s also] the frustration with a political process and the inability to address real problems that people are experiencing.”

Historically, issues like carbon taxes have caused paralysis in Australian politics. Attempts to pass laws to tax high-polluting companies were a large reason for a fall in public support for the Labor government and the ousting of the then Prime Minister Kevin Rudd in 2010.

Despite huge protests, the tax became law under his successor, Julia Gillard. But when the Liberal-led coalition came to power in 2013 it set about repealing the law.

The coalition has torn itself to shreds over the issues of energy and emissions targets in the past year, ditching former Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull because of party divisions.