2019 Federal Election (Indi)

In the 2019 Federal Election, the Shire of Murrindindi was within the Federal Electorate of Indi.

The Candidates

The  candidates participating in the Forum included:

- Helen Haines, Independent (HH)

- Helen Robinson, Australian Greens (HR)

- Mark Byatt, Nationals. (MB)

Candidates from the Liberal Party, Labor Party, and United Australia Party were also invited to participate, but did not respond to the invitation.

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 to ensure they were able to get their individual or party message across. The questions, and the candidates' responses, are as follows:

1.      Given that over 600,000 volunteer landcarers across Australia are working toward protecting our environment and improving our farm management techniques,

     a)      do you agree that Landcare is worthy of  and would you commit to appropriate financial resourcing rather than the ever decreasing funding we have experienced over the past ten years?

HH: Landcare is a highly effective organisation and movement, developing and implementing practical, local actions to improve the land and water in a sustainable way.

Its philosophies and values of volunteerism, community engagement and local solutions to local issues are completely at one with my own and also that of Voices for Indi, the community movement initiated in 2012, that invited me to be the independent candidate for Indi.

I would definitely commit to support ongoing and appropriate financial resourcing

HR: The National Landcare Program (NLP) supports vitally important work across Australia’s amazing landscapes, from helping small farmers develop new land management techniques, to providing grant funding for communities to play a bigger part in caring for the land they live on. Yet the Coalition Government has drastically cut funding to the program, undermining its vital work. The Greens have been in the fight for Landcare funding for years - managing to secure an extra $100 million in 2016. Now we’ll fully restore this crucial program to health, increasing funding by $84 million a year over the course of the next Parliament. With extra funding, the NLP can provide for the productive and responsible use of our land and safeguard it for future generations.

I have completed a Masters Degree in Sustainable Agriculture and I am the President of the Beechworth Urban Landcare and Sustainability Group, part of the Ovens Landcare Network. I am directly involved with Landcare works within my local community and I understand the importance of supporting our volunteer landcarers in vital work.

MB: The Nationals know our farmers and those who live in rural and regional areas are great environmental stewards and land managers. They are often the best placed carers of country and they have consistently demonstrated their valued contribution to our rivers and streams, and the land on which their livelihood depends. Farmers have been key to the Landcare movement from its earliest days in the eighties, and along with many other volunteers and community groups continue to play a major part in Landcare’s actions on the ground. The Nationals will always stick up for the regions and if elected I will commit to be a strong advocate for Landcare and that the movement receives appropriate focus and resources.

     b)      What is your position on the national Landcare Policy Statement 2019? http://nln.org.au/wp-content/uploads/2019/04/NLN_LAL_Landcare_Policy_Statement_2019.pdf  

     HH: I have read the Landcare Policy Statement 2019 and support its objectives.

Targeted local community grants should support the interconnected challenges of conservation, sustainable and regenerative agriculture, and climate change mitigation as outlined in the report.

I also strongly endorse the support of traditional owner groups to work on their traditional lands and the opportunities afforded to young Australians to engage in land and habitat care.

I acknowledge the superb learning opportunities afforded to young and old alike from their involvement in Landcare.

HR: The National Landcare Policy Statement is a very worthy strategic plan, mapping out how all communities can achieve local action with regional, state and federal support.

The Greens plan to protect our environment embraces many of these proposals. This plan involves the establishment of the Nature Fund, into which $2 billion each year for ten years will be invested to tackle the three main drivers of decline- invasive species, habitat destruction and climate change.

I encourage everyone to read this document , which can be found online at


Some of the measures outlined include:

• $140 million a year to a national invasive species action plan

• Revamp the Threatened Species Recovery Plans. We will ramp up annual investment to $455 million from the current level of $70 million, allowing the full implementation of every recovery plan already developed, with proper funding for national and local action.

• We will establish new national environmental laws which include strong provisions to protect critical habitats and climate refuges for species.

• The establishment of 39 strategically placed mammal havens across the country

• Our protected estate will double, with twice as much land in our national reserve system, and protection for all publicly owned native forests.

• 5000 Indigenous Rangers will be working on country, protecting the land and sea, combating invasive species, managing risks from bushfires and drough and monitoring the health of the waterways.

• Support conservation on private land

• Make available $80million annually in direct agricultural subsidies for farmers to improve per hectare yield without degrading the land.

• Fund a broad national rollout of the Whole of Paddock Rehabilitation program with a $5.3million a year investment through the NLP.

• A Local Greening Program to embark on Urban Canopy Programs and Sustainable Urban Forests.

• Develop a 10,000 strong workforce of trained qualified environmental managers to be deployed across the country

MB: The Nationals in Government understand the important role the Landcare movement has in maintaining the national focus on our natural resource management and I welcome the Landcare Policy Statement outlining Landcare’s vision, key principles and proposed approach going forward. It is important to have a roadmap, and that future environmental management objectives are based on local actions and outcomes, and the Landcare Policy Statement goes a long way to support these actions.

2.      What role do you see for the federal government in helping the economy make the necessary transition from a short term to a long term energy strategy?

HH: I believe Australia should be a leader not a follower in climate change abatement. We need to switch our thinking to see the change to renewables as an opportunity not just a threat.

Along with other independent candidates I have signed the Climate Leadership Agreement. This includes an objective to move Australia towards 100% renewable energy sources, with at least 50% by 2030.

I would introduce legislation to create a Community Energy Fund to support the establishment of a network of community energy hubs across Australia; lobby for an interest free loan scheme for battery storage for homes, farms and small businesses to help support the transition to renewables and reduce energy bills; and support energy efficiency upgrades for landlords, tenants and homeowners.

I would also lobby for investment in demand management to reduce energy costs and improve network capacity.

I also support moves for Australia to re-engage internationally on climate issues, and to restore overarching institutions such as the Climate Change Authority as the independent, credible science- based organisation it was originally established to be.

My climate policy can be found on the policy section of my website helenhaines.org with further information in some of the media releases on the website.

HR: The Greens in government would implement their plan, outlined in the comprehensive policy document called Renew Australia, which can be read online at https://greens.org.au/sites/default/files/2019-04/Greens%202019%20Policy%20Platform%20-%20Renew%20Australia%20%28April%202019%29.pdf

This detailed plan outlines what Australia needs to do, including:

• Phasing out coal exports by 2030

• Building a Clean Energy Export Industry

• Charting a timeline to close down our coal fired power stations and transition to a 100%renewable energy sector

• Saying No to new coal, oil or gas fired energy production (no Adani coal mine)

• Become a renewable energy superpower, embracing a suite of renewable energy source including solar, wind, hydro, pumped hydro, wave, geothermal and hydrogen.

MB: All levels of government hold a community leadership responsibility in prioritizing and delivering public value objectives. There is no doubt our communities are expecting and relying on governments leadership and investment in ensuring the nation has a reliable and sustainable short- and long-term energy approach.

The Nationals’ energy policy supports investment certainty in Australia’s future energy supply.

Clean energy investment was at its highest ever level in 2018, setting a new record of $13 billion. Electricity generation in Australia rose by 1 per cent in 2018, which included a 25 per cent increase from renewable sources which included a 160 per cent increase in large-scale solar generation, a 23 per cent increase in wind generation and a 22 per cent increase in small-scale solar generation. The government has implemented the Underwriting New Generation Investments program to increase firm electricity supply and competition.

     3.      When a Carbon Price was introduced in Australia, carbon emissions fell. When the Carbon Price was rescinded, carbon emissions reverted to their previous rising trend. Are you in favour of re-introducing a Carbon Price in Australia, as the most cost-effective way of encouraging mitigation of carbon emissions?

HH: The evidence suggests that when a carbon price was introduced it did result in a decline in the trend to increasing carbon emissions. In the current Australian political climate none of the major parties are prepared to support a price on carbon so this will not become policy for either a Labor or Coalition government in the foreseeable future.

With the electricity sector being a significant contributor to carbon emissions, the rapid shift to more affordable and accessible renewables will play a major role in bringing down Australia’s emissions.

HR: The carbon pricing mechanism that operated from 2012 to 2014 saw the greatest reduction in emissions ever recorded in Australia. Pollution has been continually rising since it was repealed. Not only does a carbon price change the investment decisions of heavy industry and energy companies, but it creates a new revenue source for farmers who can sell abatement on their land. Crucially, it is the only method available to force gas companies and coal mines to pay for the fugitive emissions that leak into the atmosphere – it is Australia’s fastest growing source of emissions and neither the Labor or Liberal parties have a plan to contain it. The Greens want the carbon price to pick up where it was trashed by Tony Abbott, mirroring the European price and driving innovation, clean investment and emissions reductions right across the entire economy.

MB: The development and subsequent introduction of major (complex) government public value policy, should be considered on an evidence basis with all the relevant information and data on the table. I am therefore not in a position to support or otherwise the re-introduction of carbon price policy in Australia. I do support the principles of cost-effective, sensible and high return on investment approaches to manage impacts and improve environmental outcomes.

     4.      What specific policies will you promote to reduce carbon emissions in this electorate?

HH: Indi is already a leader in efforts to reduce our carbon footprint, with 11 of Australia’s 100 community energy projects located in this electorate.

I am a foundation board member of Indigo Power, a community energy retailer allowing customers to share their solar and other renewable generated power and reduce power costs. Such projects also create investment and jobs in local communities.

The policies canvassed in the answer to Q2 are also obviously applicable specifically to Indi.

In agriculture I would support and encourage further research into such issues as carbon farming, environmental planting, carbon sinks, carbon credits and methane reduction. With technologies currently available that can reduce methane production by livestock by at least 30 per cent, incentives are needed for farmers to invest in this technology, since there are no productivity gains to be realised.

HR: Carbon emissions will be reduced within Indi as we adopt more renewable energy generation, for the domestic, commercial , industrial and transport sectors.

Policies to achieve this include:

• The $1.2 billion Solar for All program will support landlords and apartment dwellers to install rooftop solar on their property or participate in local solar gardens. This will be a win-win for renters and landlords. People on low incomes and renters will benefit from lower power prices, including from the return on selling excess solar power to the grid.

• Power Australia will offer people the opportunity to buy into Solar Gardens, installed on a supermarket or community building, and get to retain ownership of their solar panel when they move. Renters and apartment dwellers who invest will get an ongoing discount on their energy bill. The Greens will invest $100 million over 4 years to establish the scheme and ensure the Commonwealth works with State and Territory governments to remove barriers placed by energy companies that are preventing body corporates and owners’ corporations from installing solar.

• $25 million in a community renewables program to support regional and community renewable hubs across the country.

• A $2.2 billion Household Solar Storage Scheme providing household battery storage incentives of up to $7000 per battery (tapering down annually to July 1, 2023). Each quarter, $137.5 million will be made available for use from the fund. 10 per cent of the funding cap each quarter will be set aside for low income households, who will be eligible to receive double the allocated rebate in that year.

• Establish a ‘Clean Energy Small Business Fund’ with an initial funding injection of $200 million over the next 4 years. SMEs will be eligible to apply for up to $10,000 to cover the cost of investment in assets or capital works that will reduce fossil fuel use, improve energy efficiency or switch from gas to clean energy.

• Funding a $50 million community education campaign targeted at households, encouraging them to use reverse cycle air conditioners as heaters instead of their gas heaters, which would cut pollution and save consumers up to thousands of dollars a year; • Changing the Building Code of Australia requirements to prohibit the installation of gas in new developments;

• By abolishing the Emissions Reduction Fund (ERF recently rebadged as the Climate Solutions Fund) and re-establishing the Carbon Farming Initiative farmers and land managers will be supported to protect and grow the capacity of their land to drawdown carbon.

• Installing a network of charging stations throughout Australia to support the transition to a national fleet of electric vehicles.

MB: The climate science overwhelmingly supports that the climate is changing. What is important is how we respond to these changes, and for governments in particular the types of policies and interventions that are considered most appropriate, affordable and will deliver the best public value outcomes.

Whilst the Nationals are continually reviewing and monitoring the information and data, it is important that we have balanced and sensible policy, that ensures Australia reduces its emissions and maintains rural and regional economy’s that is sustainable, reliable and strong.

The Nationals recognise the importance of protecting the environment and have initiated a $3.5 billion Climate Solutions Package in support. Within that plan, the $2 billion Climate Solutions Fund will partner with farmers, local governments and businesses to deliver practical climate solutions that reduce emissions. For example, farmers will be supported to revegetate degraded land and drought proof farms. Also, the $22 million Community Environment Plan will support community groups to deliver projects to protect and care for local environments, supporting environmental works such as waste and litter reduction, protecting native animals, removing weeds, planting native species, restoring and improving wetlands, riverbanks and waterways and greening parks.

     5.      What is your position on the Murray Darling Basin Plan?

HH: The overarching objective for the Murray Darling Basin is for a healthy system that is able to provide water to the various uses in a sustainable way. The competing demands of agriculture, communities and environment are complex and further complicated by changing climate and rainfall patterns. Many of the MDB Plan goals set in 2012 have not been met.

Firstly, policy and governance need review. Compliance and policing of distribution need immediate attention and improvement.

There should be greater penalties for water theft, and more transparency in monitoring and reporting.

On this subject more generally we should demand a higher ethical standard from our politicians and bureaucrats and I support the establishment of a properly empowered National Integrity Commission, as proposed by Cathy McGowan.

The findings of the South Australian Royal Commission should be acknowledged. In addition, there is a review due in 2020. This should be brought forward, guaranteed to be independent and given more teeth.

There should be mandated sustainable limits on groundwater usage throughout the system.

An independent scientific advisory body should be established to oversee the health of the system and monitor the impact of proposed policies.

HR: The Greens will protect and restore the Murray Darling.

Despite having spent billions of dollars on the Basin Plan, we still have no clear insight into what has been achieved. The Murray-Darling Basin Authority (MDBA) has come under increased scrutiny but remains uncooperative and lacks transparency. The South Australian Royal Commission and work of MDBA whistleblower, Maryanne Slattery, have helped to highlight the scope of problems faced by this vital river system but questions of corruption, water theft and political and regulatory capture remain.

The Greens will stand up to corruption in the Murray Darling Basin to stop water theft and return more water to the river.

The Greens propose a Royal Commission. This is anticipated to cost between $70-100million dollars. We believe this is a price worth paying to learn from the mistakes of the past and create a new, robust plan to save the river and communities and wildlife that rely on it to survive.

We will suspend all payments for ‘water-saving measures’ and conduct an independent audit into taxpayer funding for water recovery projects to date; and develop a new plan that actually returns 4,000 gigalitres of water for the environment to the Murray-Darling.

MB: The Murray Darling Basin Water Plan is an historic agreement between the Federal Government and all Basin states. Managing the implementation of the plan continues to be a complex and emotive matter, that has seen a range of consequences impact many stakeholders, mostly our farmers and farming communities.

On my early read, the plan is an extremely complex subject and you don’t have to look far across the Goulburn Murray Irrigation District to realize the consequences of unavailability, cost, and/or lack of water, and the direct impacts to farming communities and the whole agriculture supply chain.

Getting the balance between sensible environmental and socio-economic outcomes must be at the forefront of how the plan is progressed. It is vitally important the socio-economic impacts are at the head of any go forward position, and it is good to see the socio-economic neutrality evaluation now part of the process, and this component must be retained as an integral element of the process going forward.

I support the review announced by the government, and very cautiously will maintain an eye on the outcomes, noting also a re-elected Liberal and Nationals Government will ask the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission to investigate water licencing in the Southern Basin.