Democracy in action
The two recent candidate forums organised by Lighter Footprints in the Victorian electorates of Hawthorn and Kew were fine demonstrations of democracy in action. Voter appreciation was evident in the near-capacity attendance.
Candidates had their support crews out in force, environment groups rallied, and the local residents were engaged and invested in the hope that the seats of Kew and Hawthorn will be won in a race to the top on climate policy.
Confirmed by a show of hands, audiences (approximately 370 in Hawthorn and 150 in Kew) were overwhelmingly constituents of each electorate. A respectful and fair atmosphere with healthy community engagement was present at both forums.
Following a rousing speech by Environment Victoria CEO, Jono La Nauze, moderators Victoria McKenzie-McHarg (Hawthorn) and Dr Joan Staples (Kew) ensured each candidate was given an opportunity to present a five-minute pitch, followed by chances to answer questions from both Lighter Footprints and the audience.
The Hawthorn candidates were
- Melissa Lowe – Independent
- John Kennedy – Labor Party
- John Pesutto – Liberal Party
- Nick Savage – Australian Greens
The Kew candidates were, in Joan’s words, “four wonderful women”:
- Jackie Carter – Australian Greens
- Lucy Skelton – Labor Party
- Sophie Torney – Independent
- Jess Wilson – Liberal Party
You can watch their presentations at the chapter point links above and catch the full evening here on our You Tube channel.
Dr Joan Staples started off with two moderator questions. You can watch the candidate replies at the chapter points below.
- Question One When should Victoria end native forest logging?
- Context included VicForests recent legal losses. Dr Staples clarified that the VicForests logging pause is only to do surveys, it is not permanent.
- Question Two What would you do to reduce emissions in the transport sector (25% of Victorian emissions)?
Audience questions from Slido included:
- Question Three What are your policies to get Victoria off gas, also talk about off shore gas exploration
- Question Four Question Four: Issue of retaining tree cover in Kew
- Question Five Question Five: Position on revival of State Electricity Commission and your energy policy
- A final Question Six, a moderator question to Independent Candidate – We already know how the parties operate in the State Parliament, there is a lot of how you would operate and what you see as your role..
Commonalities and differences
Both forums revealed strong candidate support for emissions reductions via rapid deployment of renewable energy. All candidates also outlined a commitment to increase uptake of electric vehicles and optimise public transport infrastructure. Audience responsiveness heightened when key differences, related to policy on native forest logging and fossil fuel expansion, were detected.
Specific candidate policy platforms are reflected in the Victorian Climate Action Network / Kooyong Climate Change Alliance scorecards for Hawthorn and Kew..Scoring rationale and candidate published policies are provided as links in these scorecard information pages.
Lynn Frankes’ summary at the Kew Forum, that “all four candidates agree on the endgame” was an apt reflection. Debate in these electorates has shifted toward timeframes for climate action and variations in policy specifics between candidates.
Although climate change can be a sobering topic, the framing of climate action as an opportunity for a healthier future and economic prosperity was appreciated by the audience. As was the injection of humour. Notably, John Pesutto, Liberal candidate for Hawthorn, bravely recalled his 2018 moment of embarrassment on national TV with a laugh. And in Kew, the repeated need for microphone adjustments added some comic relief.
The climate stakes in this election are high. State governments make key policy decisions that will impact our environmental outcomes and the future of our children.
Lighter Footprints thanks all candidates for accepting the invitation to engage with the electorate and discuss environmental policy. The respect for each other between candidates, between audience and candidates, and the climate ambition evident at the Forums was most heartening and set a very positive scene for the forthcoming election on 26 November.