“Reflections and Hopes: Getting to know our local State MPs” 

Thank you to everyone who came along to our State MP forum event last November. And special thanks to John Kennedy MP (Hawthorn), Paul Hamer MP (Box Hill), and Will Fowles MP (Burwood) for making themselves available to attend. Tim Smith MP (Kew) was also invited but advised he was not able to attend.

Over 80 Lighter Footprints supporters and visitors packed into our virtual hall to hear from three local State MPs. We wanted to hear from them about the important climate and environmental issues at a state level, opportunities they saw for action and what messages they’re hearing from their local constituents. To hear their answers in full you can watch a recording of the event via our YouTube channel, and what follows is a few of our selected highlights. We encourage all Lighter Footprints supporters to engage with their local MPs as much as possible in 2021 – there are some fantastic local opportunities for local action on climate, environment and sustainability.

In the commentary below, the MP initials have been used. Time-stamps are given in brackets for easy location within the recording.

2020 has been a roller coaster year. What made you hopeful and what caused you to despair?

WF (time stamp 37:45): Great (and surprising!) to see just what the community can do about climate change.

PH (41:04):  Tough year, but ended 2020 with a lot of hope on just what can be achieved.

JK (43:20): Surprised to hear local people talking about restrictions being over the top, but later a source of consolation as others started to say the restrictions were appropriate and that the community had come together to do the right thing. Council elections filled JK with great hope.

What action to reduce emissions would you like to help your community make in 2021?

WF (46:40):  Big opportunity is in stationary energy. Introducing opportunities for small business holders to install solar PV. And there’s the looming challenge of transport emissions.

PH (47:20): Whitehorse to go to a Food and Organics (FOGO) rubbish system. Again, transport is the next big challenge.

JK (48:55):  More Education, and more learning in Hawthorn. Referenced Lighter Footprints contribution to his fortnightly Newsletter.

What is your sense of your community’s attitude towards climate change and do you think climate policy will influence their vote in 2022?

PH (51:00):  After the bushfires in early 2020 saw a huge uptick in concern for the climate. Right after personal economic security, the next priority is sustainability and climate change.

JK (52:35): Controversies about wind farm noise are still being raised by our state Opposition, but the vast majority of people want action on climate change and city people/Hawthorn people are entitled to want renewables. They definitely want progress on that front.

WF (54:10): I really hope that the question of climate change remains in a position of centrality in government and the debate. There is no suggestion in my mind, that you can’t deal with the economy without dealing with climate change as well.

Audience Q&A facilitated by Ray Peck and Annie Nihill

The question of gas, and a “gas-led” recovery. Thoughts?

WF (57:00): My hope is that gas will continue to decline. But gas will assist with the transition off brown coal in Victoria.

PH (58:50): A lot of work needs to be done to move off coal, and additionally we need to consider what is the required trajectory to rapidly reduce other fuels after coal?

JK (59:45): Similar to the other two, but need to constantly be looking for opportunities to push away from fossil fuels, especially coal.

The importance of household energy efficiency?

WF (1:00:30): Delighted about Labor’s recent commitment to social housing, housing efficiency and deployment of renewables and 5-star ratings.

PH (1:04:10): Important to realise energy efficiency reduces the cost of bills for those residents, which is an important factor in terms of social housing goals.

WF (1:04:50): The new homes will undoubtedly be all-electric

What is the new schedule for the Victorian emissions intermediate Targets?

WF (1:07:20): Not sure, delays due to Covid. But would think early in the new year.

Electric vehicles, EV deployment and the proposed road tax?

PH (1:10:10): Taking a 20- to 30-year view, the Feds collect an excise tax on fuel now. We do need a policy to take over from fuel excise (petrol and diesel) as the transition happens.

WF (1:13:47): I worked for a couple of years with Better Place with Evan Thorley. Fed Govt fuel excise will come down over time. There is a strategic thought for Vic govt to put foot on road revenue rather than Fed collect fuel tax.

WF (1:16:34): And re: EVs, there is a stamp duty discount, and a registration discount.  I certainly understand that the EV lobby is very disappointed. Need to keep advocating for a better path forward.

Regarding Mountain Ash trees, and continuing destruction of native forest for next 10 years to 2030.

PH (1:19:15): A number of contracts need to be honoured. Should be proud of having set a date. And, we need to transition workers out of the timber industry, which is the biggest challenge to setting an earlier date.

WF (1:21:00): There is a diversity of view within the Government. What I can say is that Labor Govt has pushed harder than almost any previous govt on this issue.

WF also referenced this Report just released by the Victorian Government. This December 2020 report is a response to three individual reports from 2018-9 that sought public comment on key environmental matters: