2014 State Election (Eildon)

In the 2014 State Election, the Shire of Murrindindi was within the State Electorate of Eildon.

The Candidates

The  candidates participating in the Forum included:

- Cindy McLeish (Sitting Member), Liberal Party (CM)

- Sally Brennan, Australian Labor Party (SB)

- Marie Sellstrom, Australian Greens (MS)

- Bruce Argyle, Independant (BA)

- Jane Judd, Independant (JJ)

Questions & Answers

In order to get a clearer idea of each candidate’s stance on climate change and environmental issues, several questions were given to the candidates in advance of the forum to ensure they were able to get their individual or party message across. The questions, and the candidates' responses, are as follows:

1.      Do you accept that climate change is occurring? If not, what specific scientific sources and references do you rely on to justify rejecting the scientific consensus?

CM - I believe climate variability has been with us a long time. The Victorian Government recognises there are risks associated with a changing climate and a need to support national and global action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Since 2011-12, the Victorian Government has invested $3.1 billion in the Environment and Climate Change portfolio. This investment has involved the management of land, forests and parks, ambitious environmental programs, and fire and emergency management. While the size of our investment is impressive, it also reflects the Napthine Government’s environmental priorities. The Victorian Government acknowledges the risk posed by climate change and the need to support national and global action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Victoria is indirectly supporting national emissions mitigation efforts through the Commonwealth’s Direct Action Plan. We are actively preparing for a changing climate and have released Australia’s most comprehensive adaptation plan to increase our resilience to fire, floods, drought, reduced snow fall and sea level rise.

SB - Climate change is the most important issue facing the world today.

MS - Yes climate change is occurring. The Greens policy recognises that climate change is the greatest threat to our planet and requires urgent local, national and global action. It is essential that climate change is addressed now. The amount of greenhouse gases already in the atmosphere demands urgent and significant mitigation and communities need a change in culture to adapt to climate change.

BA - Yes, absolutely – this is something that thinking people have recognised for many years and now presents as the single most important issue facing our world.

JJ - Climate Change is undeniable. The evidence is indisputable. We have a responsibility to adopt the “Think Global Act Local” approach to protecting our environment for us and future generations.

2.     Do you believe that all politicians have a moral obligation to understand the science of climate change?

CM - No Answer

SB - Yes, without doubt.

MS - The Greens base climate policy on the best available science. All our policies have an evidence based approach.

BA - Yes, there is plenty of evidence and reliable sources of information that mean there is no excuse for not understanding the impact of climate change.

JJ - Not everyone can understand "the science", but they need to commit to accessing relibale information and becoming informed from reputable authorities like international research etc. I think our moral obligation to others is to ensure that in any situation, our actions do no harm.

3.     Are you aware that over 97% of climate scientists globally, the CSIRO, the Australian Academy of Science and every major national science academy in the industrialised world (whose membership includes climate scientists) agree that the planet is warming, that the observed climate change is mostly human caused, and that if we continue with business as usual, harsh impacts and irreversible changes to the climate system will occur?

CM - No Answer

SB - Yes I am aware of this.

MS - Yes. That is why our climate change policy provides a framework for all our policies. In particular solar, renewable energy, water, forests, agriculture, housing and biodiversity.

BA - This is disturbing information that everyone needs to be made more aware of. The visit of Al Gore and his ‘Inconvenient truth’ video is a great resource and has been supplemented by an Australian response where ten ordinary Australians talk about how they have responded. A must for schools.

JJ - I am aware and have accessed this information some years ago.

4.     Is it your position that Australia needs to urgently adopt policies to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions in line with scientific recommendations? If not, what specific scientific sources and references do you rely on to justify rejecting the scientific consensus?

CM - No Answer

SB - Yes, that is my position.

MS - Yes. Victoria is one of the world’s largest per-capita emitters of greenhouses gases, with 50% of Victoria’s emissions coming from the burning of brown coal. Victoria should work towards significant decrease in net emissions by 2020.

BA - Yes, the reintroduction of renewable energy targets for both State and Federal Governments is the absolute first step. The community is asking for a more meaningful set of policies and strategies at a time when other countries are taking much more significant measures to reduce emissions. Australia has really ‘dropped the ball’ in the past few years, when given our history of innovation and leadership together with favourable weather, we should be at the forefront.

JJ - Yes I do - unequivocally, and I think we have gone backwards in recent years. Direct Action is rubbish. The G20 clearly demonstrated the international community is looking on and saying clearly we are not doing enough.

5.     Do you think carbon emissions should be priced? If so, how? If not, why not?

CM - No Answer

SB - Yes. Either a carbon tax or an emissions trading scheme.

MS - Yes. The price on carbon was a Greens initiative at a federal level and it was successful in reducing Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions. Our priority for this state election is to reinstate the renewable energy target to create certainty for new large scale renewable targets. Good for the environment and good for jobs.

BA - Yes, I am not too fussed by the mechanism adopted but it needs to be on a ‘user pays’ basis with few exceptions. Most Australians are willing to see a few extra dollars on their energy bills in order to see carbon reductions.

JJ - Many people speak enthusiastically about an ETS as a good idea. Yes, polluters should pay if they damage the environment. In this country, where there are options, profits need to be adjusted for the common good. Planning however is essential for industry because employment is vital to peoples economic survival. Each Industry will need tailored supports to move to a sustainable future. We need firm federal policies and complimentary state regulation/legislation policies so Industry specific action plans can begin to achieve reduced carbon footprint in Australia.

6.     If elected, how will you ensure that the State of Victoria reaches its emissions reduction goal for 2020?

CM - No Answer

SB - By encouraging projects that support the reduction of emissions and promote renewable energy.

MS - If elected the Greens will create binding Victorian Emissions Targets to achieve a net reduction in greenhouse gas emissions from all sources by at least 30 per cent from 1990 levels by 2020 and a net zero no later than 2050.

• We will abolish the 2 km wind farm veto

• Ban new coal mines and on shore gas drilling and fracking.

• Create a Victorian solar bank so that solar power is accessible to low income families

• Equalise the ‘feed-in tariff ’ and create guaranteed right of connection into the grid for renewable energy, to encourage individuals, farms, and businesses to invest in solar and wind power.

• Improve public transport and encourage walking and cycling.

• Store green carbon in our forests by establishing the Great Forest National Park.

BA - I will advocate for the reintroduction of the RET and take every opportunity to support emissions reductions. This will include the move away from brown coal and the transition and redeployment of these workers into the renewable energy sector.

JJ - There are many resources and publications that can be accessed, but I think Victoria is full of balanced knowledgeable people who would be happy to contribute to workable and progressive solutions to achieve renewable energy targets. I would seek to gather informed and intelligent people together to seek that advice. We need people who know the interface issues from the domains of science, economics and industry. Creative, open minds welcome.

7.     Are you aware that the renewable energy sector employs 5 times more people than the coal industry and is the fastest growing industry in Australia? What is your position on the Renewable Energy Incentive Scheme?  

CM - In 2014 there are 3,700 jobs in the renewable energy sector in Victoria, in a construction, installation, operations or maintenance role. Small scale solar alone employs 2,060 people and includes hundreds of small businesses in Victoria. There are over 600 people employed in the wind sector. Many jobs are in regional and rural Victoria due to the nature of renewable projects. I am proud to be part of a government that strongly supports renewable energy. Electricity production in Victoria from wind, hydro and other renewables is 12 per cent and growing. This was 7 per cent in 2009 under the former Labor Government. We have made it clear that we strongly support the retention of the Commonwealth’s Renewable Energy Target (RET). Maintaining the RET has clear benefits for employment, clean energy and diversity of energy supply.

SB - I don’t know about it, and I can’t find any information on it. If you have any I would like to see it.

MS - Yes. This is why our policies encourage wind and solar energy in Victoria and this will create jobs in regional Victoria.

BA - Yes and I am fully supportive of this scheme. It needs to be expanded.

JJ - I am in favour of REIS. 5 times the employment within the renewable energy sector is good news too. Can you provide me with that employment data in any detail? I would like to raise this point having seen the evidence.

8.     Do you believe that financial contributions of the Victorian government to the coal mining sector are compatible with the Renewable Energy Target? If yes, why? If not, why not?

CM - Coal and related products make an important contribution to the Victorian economy, estimated to be worth around $2 billion per annum, mostly from electricity generation. 85 per cent of Victoria’s electricity generation comes from brown coal. Victoria's coal sector is a significant contributor to regional employment creating highly paid, skilled jobs. There are around 3,000 people directly employed in the brown coal energy sector in Victoria, with about 700 people directly employed in the three mines in the Latrobe Valley, Gippsland. Clearly, brown coal has a long history of providing benefits to all Victorians, delivering reliable and affordable power. While we do recognise that Victoria’s brown coal faces some challenges, we remain optimistic about the future of this important resource. The Government is supporting the development of potential new brown coal industries through a number of programs using innovative technologies. Victorian and Commonwealth governments are supporting industry research and development investment with $75 million (on a 50:50 basis) allocated through the Advanced Lignite Demonstration Program (ALDP). The facilitation of new, commercial scale coal development projects in the Latrobe Valley will maximise the opportunities and economic benefits of Latrobe Valley coal to the state. These projects will see large-scale demonstration plants built at existing brown coal mine sites in the Latrobe Valley. They will bring employment and investment to the region, creating jobs in the construction and operation phases. These projects received bi- partisan support, including the former Rudd-Gillard Federal Labor Government.

SB - I don’t know enough about this to provide a considered answer.

MS - No. Direct and indirect subsidies for fossil fuel make it harder for renewable energy to compete.

BA - As mentioned above the brown coal mining sector needs to be relatively quickly transitioned to renewable energy with reskilling and incentives provided that ensure continuity of employment for those most affected.

JJ - Sorry, I don’t have any information re financial subsidies by Vic Govt the question implies…happy to have it sent to me.

9.     Can you offer residents, businesses and community groups of your electorate incentives to address climate change at a local level? How?

CM - I advocate the role of the individual in ‘doing your bit’ for our environment. Our house runs entirely on solar (we are not connected to the grid), relies on tank water and we have a worm farm waste system which is a sustainable and an effective organic waste system. I clean using bicarb of soda and vinegar and have done for some 25 years.

SB - No. but I can offer support, encouragement and my commitment.

MS - One of the best incentives is to cut energy bills through the use of renewables. The Greens will reinstate the Victorian Renewable Energies Target scheme to bring energy efficient appliances to all Victorian households and create basic standards for rental accommodation.

BA - Increase feed in tariffs for solar panels and encourage initiatives/provide rebates that assist more in the community to move to renewable energy. Provide businesses with a tax benefit for installation.

JJ - Great question and important initiative. Again I would like feedback on this from interested locals. I invite readers to log on to janejuddforeildon Facebook page and share their ideas for local action. I am in favour of participatory democracy.

10. The Flora and Fauna Guarantee Act requires the Victorian government to actively protect listed species. In our electorate, particularly in the Upper Goulburn catchment, large areas provide habitat to a considerable number of listed flora and fauna species. This habitat has come under additional stress due to the Black Saturday bush fires and continued logging activities after the fires. What actions do you suggest and support to protect endangered species in our electorate? 

CM - The Victorian Coalition Government convened a Leadbeater’s possum advisory group with the goal of finding ways to support the recovery of Leadbeater’s Possum while also maintaining a sustainable timber industry. All 13 recommendations were fully supported, with $11 million invested for the implementation of recommendations.

SB - I support action to protect our native species, but in relation to the proposed GFNP solution see my answer below.

MS - Action statements must be developed for all listed plants, animals, communities and processes. This is the most basic description of why the plant or animal is threatened and what needs to be done to save it. It can be used to make decisions on planning, burning, logging and reserves.

BA - I believe we need to ensure that endangered species of flora and fauna are protected and that we adopt a 'do no harm' approach. This means continued and careful monitoring of these species by independent analysts and not undergoing logging in areas of potential risk to this habitat. I also fully support the work of the Healesville Sanctuary and a number of philanthropic organisations and individuals who are doing great work in this area.

JJ - Advocate to instigate an Independent Review of the Upper Goulburn catchment to assess whether the current activity and  practices are meeting our legislative obligations under the Flora and Fauna Act. I would advocate for old growth forests to be maintained and distinguish between these and regrowth forests on maps used by Vicforest if that is not already being done.

11.      Do you support the creation of a Great Forest National Park in our electorate to provide a greater level of protection to the mountain ash forests? (http://www.greatforestnationalpark.com.au/)

CM - No Answer

SB - I wouldn’t be supportive of a plan that prevented people from using the forests for recreation and hunting as they are currently used. I wouldn’t be supportive of a plan that destroyed jobs in the Timber Industry. As a person who has worked in the community for most of my life, I always take a consultative approach. In respect to the GFNP, I support the position of Jacinta Allen our Shadow Minister for Rural and Regional Development when she said “My view is that any future decisions about Parks, Reserves or changes to the resources needs to be taken following, and only following, a genuinely consensus based approach” I support a process where all stakeholders are included in the consultation.

MS - The Greens will support the establishment of the Great Forest National Park for the health of the environment and for future generations. It will also support tourism in the region and jobs.

BA - The GFNP definitely needs to be on the agenda (refer website www.bruceargyle.com.au) and stakeholders brought together to address concerns and map out a way forward that sees timber harvesting, job security, park access and environmental issues all on the table. I would use my mediation skills to actively move this forward to the benefit of all directly involved and for the broader community.

JJ - I think this should be a Victoria wide decision, not ours. We are the custodians not the owners.

12. Given that VicForest has not been able to run a profitable operation from its logging operations of public state forest over the last 7 years and has been relying heavily on government subsidies, what is your position on the future of VicForest and on the logging of public state forest in general and in our electorate in particular?

CM - I support sustainable forestry. The native forest sector is the foundation of Victoria’s timber industry, which generates around $1.5 billion of activity for the State’s economy each year. Native forestry activity supports 11,000 jobs in regional Victoria and contributes to vibrant, sustainable regional communities. The Victorian Coalition Government promised to manage Victoria’s public native timber resource responsibly and sustainably and we are delivering on that commitment. This was confirmed by the Auditor General in his report ‘Managing Victoria’s Native Forest Timber Resources’. VicForests manage Victoria’s public native forestry estate. The report also noted that VicForests’ commercial performance is under pressure from “legal expenses caused by a marked increase in litigation by environmental groups”.

SB - I will work with the industry to ensure that jobs are secure, that effective strategic planning supports a sustainable and viable industry into the future.

MS - Clear felling should cease in State Forests. The future of Vic Forests should be independently reviewed with the objective being, improved park management, in particular control of all invasive species.

BA - We need to move fully to sustainable plantation and selective logging. There should be no milling of old Mountain Ash for pulp and paper. Already 87% of forestry in Victoria is from sustainable plantations and we need to move this to 100% as soon as possible, whilst supporting the timber industry to transition and avoid job losses. In Eildon there are huge ecotourism opportunities.

JJ - Can you provide evidence for this statement please? The timber industry size and financial viability is significant to those relying on it for employment, across the spectrum from production to building and furniture industry etc. Are we using quality timber wisely?

13. Given the limited public funding, if only one of the projects could be built - the East-West Tunnel or the Melbourne Rail Link Tunnel - which one would you support and why?

CM - The Napthine Government has a good strong budget with a Triple-A status and Budget surpluses which means we can invest in key infrastructure – both road and rail. Major rail projects such as the Melbourne Rail Link, the airport rail link, the regional rail project, which is ahead of schedule are able to undertaken at the same time as the vital East West link. Due to our strong financial management Victorians do not have to choose between road and rail – they get both.

SB - Melbourne Rail Link Tunnel. Of greater use to more people, creates a fairer spread of public funds for the greater good. The cost of the tunnel, the lack of a business case.

MS - I would support the Melbourne Rail Link Tunnel as public transport is a Greens priority.

BA - I am more concerned about public transport and roading in the Eildon electorate where there is direct benefit to the local communities. We do need to address both our public and private transport for Melbourne but I don’t think either has been satisfactorily researched and costed and I don’t like the lack of transparency and secret deals done immediately prior to the election. These are our taxes.

JJ - No brainer – Melbourne Rail link Tunnel. Better return for investment and improves public transport and reduce emissions from cars with a single passenger in it. Where is the sense in that - one passenger, one car.