Voters say climate change is central in the battle for Higgins

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Voters say climate change is central in the battle for Higgins

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Reporting by Elana Frost with Jack Bennett, Benjamin Millard, Julia Clugston, Ariana Moushoudis, Spencer Duyker, Megan Hunt, Ruby Fleischer and Samuel Baiguerra

 

A longtime Liberal voter will opt for a different party for the first time in her life after losing faith in its policies on climate change, ahead in the federal election.

Celia Wilson, a semi-retired volunteer admin worker from Malvern, says she is frustrated with the Liberals’ reluctance to accept climate change as a genuine threat.

“They have to do more than just [reduce] emissions for climate change. They’ve got to at least get people to stop using plastic bags,” she says.

Ms Wilson is not the only one with concerns: the Liberal party’s perceived lack of a clear-cut policy on climate change is also driving a 55-year-old Murrumbeena resident to switch her vote.

Anna Ekonomopoulos, a conveyancing clerk working in Oakleigh, says her concern for climate change will “for sure” influence which way she votes.

“The government seems to care more about its corporate interests rather than the environment,” she says.

Ms Wilson and Ms Ekonomopoulos are among the many residents of Higgins—an electorate in Melbourne’s south-east—citing climate change as a significant issue ahead of the election.

Roy Morgan polling last year found that 67 per cent of people in the electorate regard it as their most important issue, making Higgins the most climate conscious seat in the nation.

This could be bad news for the Liberals, who have held the seat since its inception.

In last year’s state election the Greens retained the seat of Prahran, in Higgins’ west. And at the last federal election the Greens candidate, Jason Ball, secured a quarter of the primary vote, coming second to the Liberals’ Kelly O’Dwyer.

According to Jason Ball’s campaign manager Josephine Maguire-Rosier, Higgins “really cares about climate change,” but fails to see any action from the Liberal Party, who have always held the seat.

Jake Humphreys, president of the student-run Monash University Green Society, agrees that there is increased awareness and a sense of urgency regarding environmental issues among young voters.

Mr Humphreys says voters concerned about climate change could lead the Greens to an upset victory in Higgins.

“We’re not just running out of time, we’ve run out of time. I care about climate change because it’s literally life or death . . . it sounds grim, but it’s the reality.”

One of these concerned voters is Kelly Griffiths, a small business owner in Malvern.

“I’m very environmentally conscious, and it’s one of the reasons I don’t vote Liberal.”

Ruby Fleischer
Toorak florist Scott Hammond

Another is Scott Hammond, a 54-year-old florist from Toorak.

He says climate change directly impacts his stall, with the quality and size of flowers decreasing due to the inconstant and rapidly changing weather, and he is choosing to vote Greens this election.

However, despite climate change concerns, a longtime Liberal voter says she will continue to vote for the party despite her concerns with their stance on climate change.

Amanda Bagot, 55, volunteers at an op shop in Toorak while also raising two 20-year-old daughters, and votes Liberal based on family tradition.

Although she says she considers climate change an important issue and finds the Liberals “very disengaged”, she says she would need to be “totally dissatisfied” with the party to even consider switching.

Some says Labor could win Higgins but would need to follow Greens’ policies—including the fight against the proposed Adani coal mine in Queensland—to do so.

Prudence Trinca, 33, believes there are many people demanding climate change action yet they would still prefer a major party due to the Greens’ “inability to run the country.”

Samuel Baiguerra
Anti-Adani campaigner Prudence Trinca

“At the end of the day all they [The Greens] have is an influence. Your vote is giving them more strength, but they won’t ever have complete balance of power.”

Ms Trinca, a member of the Stop Adani Convoy, is travelling from Hobart with up to 2000 people on a road trip that ends with a protest in Canberra.

The convoy is protesting the production of the giant Adani coal mine in central Queensland, which Ms Trinca said she believes to be a “number one issue” due to the “threat” it poses to the environment.

Retired admin worker Celia Wilson is choosing not to vote for a major party at all this year.

“I’m positive Labor and the Greens won’t do anything either. They always talk a big game but it never comes to much.”

Instead, she says she will consider voting for the Animal Justice Party due to their progressive policies on animal cruelty and environmental issues.

Irrespective of which party takes Higgins, it is clear that climate change is an issue residents are taking seriously.

“I care about it more so for the future. I want my grandchildren to be able to grow up in a world that is sustainable and liveable,” says conveyancing clerk Anna Ekonomopoulos.