A win for the climate! Higgins campaign highlights
Previously a ‘blue ribbon’ seat, Climate topped voter concerns resulting in a win for Climate Action in Higgins
Higgins CAN members are grateful for the enthusiasm and dedication of Climate volunteers in Higgins. Thank you to everyone who contributed to putting Climate in the spotlight for voters.
Committee member Will Howard sums it up “Well done supporters of Higgins CAN! We have led the transformation in Higgins. Australian voters have shown they want Climate Change addressed, ending the use of fossil fuels and making Australia a renewable superpower.”
Greg Hardisty, also on the Higgins CAN committee is encouraged. “Higgins CAN proved the strong takeaway message from COP26 that grassroots activism can make a difference. Our message to future governments is that you ignore your communities at your peril. But if governments listen, Australia can lead the world in green and sustainable solutions.”
Weekly Vigils outside Katie Allen’s office
As soon as lockdown ended in Victoria at the end of last year, a small band of local Climate volunteers began gathering outside Katie Allen office, protesting against the glacial pace of Climate Action in Australia.
Week by week, more people attended the Vigils. Despite another COVID wave, in February this year we began working in earnest towards a Higgins Candidate Forum. This would enable voters to judge the candidates’ policies for themselves, and ask questions directly.
Member groups of Higgins CAN worked with the ACF Together We Can campaign, highlighting Climate as a key election issue. According to the campaign’s huge Climate Poll, three in four Higgins voters were strongly in favour of moving away from coal and gas, believing Climate Action would improve health and strengthen the economy.
Persistence and humour were two features of our weekly vigils to raise awareness of climate as a key election issue. The Vote Climate fence signs emphasised the benefits of moving to clean energy, and volunteers delivered a campaign flyer, cutting through policy spin, and a flyer publicising the May 5 Forum.
Climate Voices – Why we are Voting for Climate
Thanks so much to everyone who contributed to our Climate Voices project.
Alison wants better leadership to deliver Climate Action “rapidly and responsibly, and in a way that ensures no one is left behind”. Greg says we are “on a last chance. We need a government that will protect our children’s and grandchildren’s futures.” Mary is also concerned about a future our kids: “What sort of planet are they going to live one if we don’t take action now?”
Jackie says her generation needs “to step up and take responsibility” and Kev wants action: “it’s not too late to make a difference. Giving up is a cop out”. Helen wants “leaders who can see the seriousness of our situation and turn it into a positive. “It’s time to stop propping up outdated fossil-fuel industries and to kickstart a stronger, safer renewables-based economic future.”
Tam says: “This election will be the most important one in my life, and I’m in my seventies! I imagine it’ll be the most important in yours, too. We have to vote correctly this time.” Ben is voting climate to preserve the amazing things around the world that he has experienced, and Heather is voting climate “in order to get a government that will work harder on Climate issues, help the world reduce carbon emissions and make the future less scary for our children.”
With fires and floods upper most in the public mind, Climate becomes the top vote-determining issue according to Vote Compass. Voters want Climate Action not just talk, and look hard at incumbents’ voting records.
Committee member Lynn Frankes was so encouraged by the result. “I am so pleased we have avoided a Trump like lurch to the right. My faith in the Australian public is restored. I am confident Higgins Climate Action Network contributed to the result in Higgins. We raised the profile of Climate Change as an issue in the electorate and gave voters the information they needed to vote for Climate Action. Katie Allen may have been a moderate but she voted with Barnaby Joyce on Climate, leading us towards catastrophic Climate Change.”
Who would have thought? Volunteering is a great way to make connections. We achieve more by pooling our skills and working together! We all gained from the creativity and enthusiasm in our group and the support of our local organisations contributing to this new project.
We’re so grateful for some post-election thoughts from some of our wonderful Higgins CAN volunteers:
“Congratulations to you all. A marvellous, generous community effort.”– Marion
“Thanks to all in this dedicated team with talents applied so well to winning this campaign! Have a good rest… so happy!”– Sally
“I am so thankful for your organisation! We can briefly rest and celebrate, before taking action to get the feds to improve their game!!”– Paula
“Congratulations. Your people were a fantastic presence.”– Diana
“It’s thanks to you and your organising that others like me had a means to do our little bit, and I’m glad to have had the opportunity. Well done all of you that helped mobilise this constituency, achieving such an encouraging result.”– Ruth
“Such a great result for Higgins! I was so happy to help out last week. Well done for all your hard work! “– Emma
Clean energy and the shift away from fossil fuels was a key theme of the campaign
Accelerating the shift to clean energy is a key demand of the campaign. People in Higgins want faster climate action and are very worried about Climate impacts on their health, and on the world we will leave for our kids.
Barbara, one of our key volunteers commented “It’s clear there’s been a real shift in awareness of Climate Change. We can be grateful that our contribution has played out in the election results. Because of my involvement with Higgins CAN, I understand what Barack Obama meant when he said: ‘we are the ones we have been waiting for.’ Thank you all!”
Street Conversations and letterboxing were integral to the Higgins campaign, even if it meant clocking up many kilometres on foot for some dedicated volunteers!
Higgins CAN are grateful for the fantastic feedback we have had about our flyers and campaign material.
“I would like to thank you for the fantastic flyer we got in the letterbox with the summarised information about the climate policies that the various candidates have. As a family we used it to discuss and examine our beliefs and knowledge. It was immensely helpful. It also helped when we did an early vote this week. One of the best bit of voting material we received during this campaign!”– Jane
The Climate Choir supported the Higgins campaign at several events. You can read more about the Day of Action on April 28 here, where constituents urged Dr Allen to come to the Higgins Candidates Forum and the choir serenaded her to say ‘yes’.
Dr Will Howard, a member of Higgins CAN and Doctors for the Environment, spoke about the need for urgent Climate Action, and following the science, which means emissions reduction by 75 per cent by 2030.
The Higgins Candidate Forum on May 5
The Forum was a real opportunity for candidates and their parties to highlight their Climate policies and to be accountable to the electorate. The whole Forum is available on YouTube here.
Dr Catherine Pendrey moderated the Candidates Forum. Her distinguished career includes serving on the United Nations Sustainable Development Solutions Network for the Asia Pacific, and the Boards of Doctors for the Environment Australia and Climate and Health Alliance.
You can read more about the Higgins Candidate Forum here.
Candidates were given considerable notice of the forum, and Dr Michelle Ananda-Rajah (ALP) and Sonya Semmens (Greens) accepted quickly, enthusiastic to engage with the electorate. The incumbent, Dr Katie Allen, did not give a formal reply about her attendance for some time. We also chose to invite two candidates with serious Climate policies, Andrew Johnson (Reason) and Alicia Walker (Animal Justice) to attend the forum. Andrew Johnson accepted our invitation with enthusiasm. Very close to the forum, another call to Dr Allen’s office gave us formal confirmation that she would not be attending the forum. But we did not give up reaching out for her to come. Then on the night of the forum, less than half an hour before the event was due to start, Dr Allen phoned organisers, saying she could attend for half an hour or so. Higgins CAN hastily re-arranged the program, allowing Dr Allen to speak. Unfortunately she left before she could answer constitutent questions.
In her address to forum attendees, Dr Katie Allen stressed her advocacy for Net Zero by 2050. The LNP climate plan was reliant on “technology”, particularly carbon capture and storage, and had a 2030 emissions reduction target of 26 to 28 per cent. You can listen to Dr Allen’s candidate statement here.
Sonya Semmens spoke of the urgency of Climate Action. Her party, The Greens, have a 75 per cent by 2030 target. You can listen to her statement here
Dr Michelle Ananda-Rajah stressed Labor’s sector-by-sector approach which includes a 2030 emissions reduction target of 43 per cent. You can listen to her statement here.
Andrew Johnson (Reason Party) stressed the absolute urgency of acting on Climate. Reason has a platform of Net Zero by 2035 – check out his statement here.
After this, all four candidates were required to answer questions from the moderator on emissions reduction targets, the parties’ position on new coal and gas, as well as accountability and transparency in government. You can listen to the Forum questions and responses starting here.
Huge thanks to all the Higgins CAN volunteers for organising and helping out at the Higgins Candidates Forum and to our speaker, renewables industry leader Eytan Lenko. Eytan has a deep knowledge of innovation, having spearheaded innovation across three waves of change, the advent of the web, mobile technology and the current impetus towards decarbonisation. Eytan served as the Chair of Beyond Zero Emissions for nine years, creating technical reports about the possibility of 100 per cent renewables, and then more detailed sector-decarbonisation forward reports. You can read more about Eytan Lenko here, and listen to his presentation here.
The message is clear – we must electrify everything, and create electricity with wind, solar and other clean energy technologies buttressed by various types of storage in a modern, two-way grid. This will allow Australia to become a clean energy superpower, transforming manufacturing and exports.
Virginia Trioli at Malvern Central
As the campaign in Higgins heated up, journalist and ABC broadcaster Virginia Trioli took the temperature of voters in Higgins, speaking of leaked polling showing a substantial shift away from the LNP with the ALP at 51 per cent. Virginia interviewed Higgins CAN member Dr Will Howard who said Climate was a hot topic, enough to shift votes. Why? Because “I am a parent and a grandparent”. Check out the tweet string here
During the live broadcast at Malvern Central, Higgins CAN members were spreading the Vote Climate message while Lighter Footprints volunteers handed out an independent scorecard assessment of the candidates’ climate policies. Committee member Remy Shergill spoke of climate impacts on family, that the climate crisis is a health crisis.
One of the most moving messages was from a man called Mark, who said that this would be his very last election. He had decided to give his vote to local school kids, the future generation. They asked him to vote Green, not Mark’s normal practice, because of the Green’s more effective Climate targets.
Vote Climate at Pre-poll and Polling Day
For the first time in Higgins, Lighter Footprints (a member group of Higgins CAN) put the Vote Climate message in front of voters at pre-poll and at priority booths on polling day. People were appreciative of an independent assessment of the candidates’ position on Climate Action and integrity. The Climate Choir also supported a Day of Action on Saturday 14th of May.
Voters really appreciated our presence and the scorecard. Remy commented “Several voters I handed out scorecards to thanked me for it, saying that it was the kind of information they were looking for. This is confirmation if needed that Climate remained a top-of-mind issue, in spite of media – including ABC – downplaying it.”
Higgins results – a win for Climate!
On the evening of May 21, it became clear the electors of Higgins had voted for change. Dr Michelle Ananda-Rajah is the new MP, with the aid of Greens preferences from a 22.6 per cent primary vote for Sonya Semmens. Dr Ananda-Rajah lifted the Labor primary vote by 2.5 per cent to 28.6 per cent. Dr Katie Allen suffered a 5.9 per cent swing against her primary vote, and ended up with 47.9 per cent on a two-party-preferred basis.
Huge thanks to everyone who contributed to the Higgins Vote Climate campaign.
Higgins CAN would like to extend our thanks to all the volunteers who attend our Vigils, supported on social media, letter dropped, handed out Vote Climate material and spoke to people at street conversations, and particularly everyone who staffed pre-poll and polling day booths.Here’s more feedback from campaign supporters and volunteers!
“It was a great result indeed. I was delighted to see the overall result for Climate Change Action across the country.”– Lachlan
“Congratulations on a great success!! Such a fantastic night and win in so many ways … You all did a great job and it was a joy to meet you all and play a small part.”– Cynthia
“How wonderful to be celebrating these results! What a monumental effort you put in, with Mary, Will, and the others. Two weeks ago, tramping around letterboxing, we could only fantasise. But our most fervent hopes have been realised. I feel privileged to have been part of it.”– Jackie
We would also like to acknowledge the support of the local climate organisations that make up the Higgins CAN Committee including Australian Conservation Foundation Malvern Climate Action Group, Australian Parents for Climate Action Boroondara, Australian Religious Response to Climate Change, Climate and Health Alliance, Doctors for the Environment Australia (Higgins), Environment Victoria South Eastern Volunteers (EVSEV), Friends of the Earth Melbourne, Higgins Environment Action Team (HEAT) – a GetUp community group, and Lighter Footprints.