Poll: Punters Are Looking For Stronger Environment Policies

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Australia’s environmental groups have delivered some good news for the Labor party as it heads into the second week of this year’s Federal election campaign, with a ReachTel poll revealing its more ambitious conservation and climate policies are likely to go down well in the electorate.

A May 9 poll released this morning suggests that stronger environmental laws are a winner with 70 per cent of voters. The Coalition government has been trying for years to water down the nation’s environmental laws by passing off responsibility to the states, while Labor has resisted the reform and recently indicated it will move to add a new land-clearing trigger.

According to a ReachTel poll commissioned by environmental groups, 66.9 per cent of voters would be more likely “to vote for a party that created stronger national environmental laws to protect Australia’s species and places, like the Great Barrier Reef”.

Climate change is the greatest threat to the Great Barrier Reef, and the ReachTel poll found that 56.4 per cent thought the Federal Government should be doing more to cut carbon emissions. Just 9.9 per cent of respondents thought the government should be doing less on the issue, and 27.8 per cent said efforts to curb carbon emissions should remain ‘about the same’.

(IMAGE: Paul Toogood, Flickr)
(IMAGE: Paul Toogood, Flickr)

The Labor Party has committed to cutting emissions by 45 per cent by 2030, based on 2005-level pollution, compared to the 26 per cent reduction the Coalition promised at the United Nations last year.

Ambitious plans “to reduce Australia’s carbon pollution to effectively zero before 2050,” more in line with the Greens’ policies, were less popular. Such a plan would attract the support of only 48.2 per cent of respondents, would be a turn-off for 17.2 per cent of respondents, and would not sway the vote of the remaining 34.6 per cent.

The poll sampled 2,400 Australian residents. It was commissioned by the Australian Conservation Foundation, Environment Victoria, 350.org, the Wilderness Society, Greenpeace, GetUp!, the Australian Marine Conservation Society and the Australian Youth Climate Coalition.

Environmental groups this morning revealed plans for a massive lobbing effort. They said they intend to place 100,000 calls, knock on 30,000 doors, and host over a hundred election-focused community events across the country before it heads to a July 2 poll.

The ReachTel results show that the electorate is hungry for greater renewable energy roll-out. The finding comes against the backdrop of a dramatic slide in Australia’s renewable energy sector, which the Coalition has overseen as the global industry boomed.

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According to the poll, 64 per cent of respondents would be more likely to vote for a party that has a plan to source 100 per cent of Australia’s electricity from renewables within the next 20 years. Only 13.1 per cent of respondents said they’d be less likely.

Again, that’s good news for the Labor Party. The Opposition has pledged to source half the nation’s electricity from renewable sources by 2030 although it hasn’t said how it will achieve that goal, while the Coalition’s aspirations after 2020 remain unclear.

An associated element of Labor’s plan – its promise to begin phasing out domestic coal-fired power stations, if elected – was also well received. Of those surveyed, 56.1 per cent stated that they’d be more likely to vote for a party that “has a plan to phase out coal-burning power stations over time, starting with the oldest and most polluting in the next three years”.

IMAGE: Thom Mitchell.
IMAGE: Thom Mitchell.

However, plans to put a brake on fossil fuel exports, a measure which only the Greens have so-far backed, were far less popular. Just 30.3 per cent of voters said they would be more likely “to vote for a party that has a plan to phase out mining coal, gas and oil in Australia”.

A plan to drop out of fossil fuel exports would not sway 35.9 per cent of respondents’ votes, while 33.7 per cent said they’d be less likely to support a party that wanted to phase out mining of coal, gas and oil.

The Chief Executive Officer of the Australian Conservation Foundation, Kelly O’Shanassy said “the vast majority of Australians recognise that we need new and powerful laws to manage [the]transition and to protect the places we love from the impacts of climate change”.

“The Prime Minister has spoken about the need to transition the economy from one dependent on mining. It is clear from this poll that an increasing number of Australians support that goal on climate change grounds,” she said.

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Thom Mitchell

Thom Mitchell is New Matilda's Environment Reporter.

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