02/05/2011

Historic swing

Door: Jonathan Verschuuren (TLS) | Categorie: Australia, Emissions abatement

28 March, 2011

Elections were held last Saturday for the parliament of New South Wales, the state where one third of the Australian population live (and of this third, more than half live in Sydney). These elections are crucial because the vast majority of policy issues, including environmental policy, are decided at the state level. We watched TV every night, astonished at the political ads that consisted of little more than insinuations and slurs. “What else does he have to answer for?” and other sentences along these lines. And hardly any information at all about the policy intentions of the ad’s sponsor.

The elections resulted in a historic loss for the incumbent Labor government. Never before in the history of Australia did so many districts switch their electoral preference (of the 50 Labor seats in the 93-seat parliament, there are now only 17 left). Labor had been in power here for 16 consecutive years. Until today. Wiped out, mainly through a series of internal disputes and scandals, including bribery scandals involving major projects. For many voters, the Labor coalition had become symbolic for deals in which project developers filled their pockets and for the unabated rise in the cost of living for ordinary people.

Opinion polls have shown that the climate tax proposed by the prime minister (also Labor) at the federal level, which I wrote about previously, played a crucial role in Labor’s monumental defeat in New South Wales. The coalition of the Liberal Party and National Party used this convenient little ‘present’ to underscore Labor’s role in the tenacious inflationary trends plaguing the country. High energy prices, layoffs, a real campaign of fear mongering on the climate tax issue. There were some who voiced dissent, of course, basing their opinions on lessons learned from experiences in Europe. They pointed out the number of jobs created in Germany because of the government’s commitment to renewable energy. However, this small voice of reason was drowned out completely by the bombastic rhetoric used by politicians down under.

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