At the start of this federal election campaign we asked you, our readers, to nominate your biggest election issues.
The results were clear; climate change is your greatest concern.
Next up was housing affordability, then environmental management, with the cost of living a close fourth.
We put those issues to the seven candidates for the seat of Cowper and gave them three sentences to explain how they'd address each one. Responses any longer than that were cut, in the interest of space and fairness.
Candidates are listed in the order they will appear on Saturday's ballot paper. Joshua Fairhall of the United Australia Party did not respond and is not included.
Fay Aspiotis (Pauline Hanson's One Nation): I believe that climate change has been politicised by the radical left political parties. When Australia signed the United Nations Paris Agreement in 2016 we agreed to do climate change mitigation to cool the planet from the apparent global warming that is supposedly causing climate change. There needs to be more transparency and investigation into these processes (of cloud seeding and cloud brightening) and how much they are causing our recent flooding on the east coast of Australia.
Keith McMullen (Labor): An Albanese Labor government is committed to net zero by 2050 and reducing emissions by 43% by 2030. A Labor government has clear policies on climate action such as the following: establishing 85 solar banks across Australia, upgrading the grid to handle more renewable power and building 400 community batteries to maximise solar transmission. Furthermore, Labor will invest in clean energy manufacturing, green metals, hydrogen electrolysers and agricultural methane reduction.
Pat Conaghan (The Nationals): The Nationals are committed to driving down emissions while protecting our economy and jobs. Australia is one of a handful of countries to have released a detailed economy-wide long-term plan which sets out how we will achieve net zero emissions by 2050. Having a target is one thing, but having a detailed plan, backed by $22 billion of Government investment (leveraging at least $88 billion in total public and private investment) in low emissions technologies, including renewable energy, is how Australia is making a significant contribution in the global fight against climate change.
Caz Heise (Independent): Real action on climate represents exciting opportunities for non-coal areas like Cowper to use cheaper clean renewable energy to power business innovation and sustainability. We need to reinvest the $11-billion a year the government spends on fossil fuel subsidies into initiatives which speed up the electrification of the private and public transport sectors; the uptake of more rooftop solar, small scale wind generation and home storage; and providing power autonomy and security to small and remote rural communities via bespoke off grid electricity generation and storage systems. The phasing out of fossil fuels will present endless opportunities for local business in areas like battery charging of vehicles, renewable energy generation, battery maintenance, electric vehicle servicing and maintenance, and off-grid power systems for farms, homes and business.
Simon Chaseling (Liberal Democrats): Australia has a great opportunity to use this as an opportunity for innovation, manufacturing, and industry as the world seeks alternate energy sources to the fossil fuel industry, but I fear that the polarization of this issue and extremist behavior on both sides of the political debate is hindering sensible discussion and practical innovation in this area. I would seek to bring a sensible and practical approach, working on ways to make the transition to cleaner energy sources beneficial to Australia, affordable, and driven by industry rather than excessive government spending.
Timothy Nott (The Greens): The changing climate is the biggest opportunity and risk to our economy, national security, health, education, jobs and prosperity. Australia will develop the cheapest power when using solar, wind combined with batteries as we have the most sun, wind, resources and a stable country. Greens policy is to refine the grid, promote solar and batteries, encourage scientific development, grow jobs and the economy as we transition rapidly away from burning fossils.
Fay Aspiotis (Pauline Hanson's One Nation): It is heartbreaking to see so many people experiencing economic hardship due to rising prices to both rent or purchasing a home. An increase in demand from foreign investment into our private property market has fueled the dramatic increase, along with more people moving to our area from the cities. One Nation wants to ban this foreign investment, and personally I would like to see an investigation into all the government costs associated with building new homes.
Keith McMullen (Labor): An Albanese Labor Government will help more people get into the housing market sooner by cutting the cost of buying a home by up to 40 per cent with its Help to Buy plan that will be open to 10,000 Australians each financial year. This will mean a smaller deposit, a smaller mortgage and smaller mortgage repayments as eligible home buyers will only need a minimum deposit of two per cent, with an equity contribution from the Federal Government of up to a maximum of 40 per cent of the purchase price of a new home and up to a maximum of 30 per cent of the purchase price for an existing home. Labor also has the Housing Australia Future Fund which will build 20,000 social housing properties - 4000 of which will be allocated for women and children fleeing domestic and family violence and older women on low incomes who are at risk of homelessness along with 10,000 affordable homes for frontline workers like police and nurses.
Pat Conaghan (The Nationals): I strongly believe that at all levels of government we need to cut the red and green tape and allow land releases and rezoning to occur to facilitate supply and take pressure off the housing market. I agree with the recommendations laid out in the recent Tax and Revenue Committee's report on housing that the Federal Government should provide incentive payments to state and local governments to encourage the adoption of better planning and property administration policies. Additionally, we do need schemes to facilitate private sector partnerships to deliver discount-to-market rent-to-own.
Caz Heise (Independent): We need a National Housing Strategy informed by a thorough and independent review of the impact of Government policies and the influence of donors on the unsustainable rate of increase in home prices and rents, so legislation is based on fact, fairness and merit. We should explore Government investment in property 'rent to buy' schemes; an expansion of public housing, measures to guarantee rental security including higher levels of rental assistance; the requirement of property developers to set aside a percentage of their developments for social housing, the need for larger deposits for property investors; and limits to the level of tax deductions available to property investors and particularly those focused on short term holiday rental accommodation. Far too many young people and women are living rough so we need more government investment in crisis accommodation as well as measures which protect women and their children from being evicted following family breakdown or domestic violence.
Simon Chaseling (Liberal Democrats): The Liberal Democrats aim to assist local governments with policy making development easier to assess on a case-by-case basis without prohibitive state and federal legislation, allowing the local release of building allotments in an environmentally sensitive manner, and to bring the government back to fiscal responsibility and balanced budgets, easing the pressures of inflation.
Timothy Nott (The Greens): The Greens plan to build one million homes by 2030, most rented at 25 per cent of an individual's income. To achieve this we will make TAFE free, have a TAFE to work guarantee designed to ensure our youth can live in Cowper, train in Cowper and work in Cowper. As part of this I will bring construction courses back to Cowper so our youth can help build the houses.
Fay Aspiotis (Pauline Hanson's One Nation): We live in the best part of Australia and I want to maintain the pristine beauty of this area by only allowing sensible policies to be implemented. There needs to much more community consultation with regards to local river management, especially with regards to the proposed Oven Mountain Pumped Hydro Scheme on the Macleay River. Locals are concerned about the pollution this project will do to the Carrai Tablelands, with potential for arsenic and antimony leaching into the river.
Keith McMullen (Labor): Labor's legacy in government is that we protected the Daintree, Kakadu, the Great Barrier Reef, the Franklin and Antarctica. We created Landcare and we created the largest network of marine parks in the world. An Albanese Labor Government will work to protect the Great Barrier Reef from the threats of climate change and poor water quality. We will work with local communities to restore the creeks and rivers that run through our communities and we will double the number of Indigenous rangers working to protect some of our most precious places, like the Daintree.
Pat Conaghan (The Nationals): As outlined in the Budget, we are investing a further $636 million to expand the Indigenous Rangers Program, with more than 1,000 new rangers to undertake land and sea management. More than $170 million has been budgeted for threatened species and habitat restoration, including for our koalas. We are also continuing to invest in ways to reduce waste through our Recycling Modernisation Fund, saving 10 million tonnes of recyclables from landfill every year by 2030.
Caz Heise (Independent): All three tiers of government in Australia - federal, state and local - must work collaboratively to manage development so it has minimal impact on the environment, and in particular on critical habitat, valuable farmland, riparian and coastal zones and water sources. We should limit urban sprawl by reimagining CBD infill development to repopulate town centres via high rise living precincts and converting space above retail spaces and business premises into residential living. We should always establish supporting infrastructure such as schools, public transport and community facilities and services before greenlighting development proposals in smaller or remote rural areas.
Simon Chaseling (Liberal Democrats): The majority of Australians agree that sound environmental policy needs to be in place to protect our natural environment and habitats, and that with effort this can be done well whilst also growing a strong local economy, a large portion of which relies on natural environment for its survival. I believe that resources need to be strengthened locally to manage and protect our environment, and also to assist farming and industry in reaching environmental targets and best practice efficiently and affordably.
Timothy Nott (The Greens): As an environmental scientist, I have a detailed knowledge of what needs to be done to prevent the mass species extinction currently underway. We need to act on the climate risks by moving away from fossil fuels, change our industries to prevent the hunt for increasing profits being extracted from our natural world and change the approval system to include planning for community outcomes, not just profit. The Great Koala National Park is one of the most positive opportunities to increase our jobs and income while preserving the natural and heritage values that provide us the ecosystem services that keep us alive and healthy.
Fay Aspiotis (Pauline Hanson's One Nation): The Australian Government needs to stop regulating the farmers and agricultural sector so much and instead regulate (and tax properly) the large multinational companies that are driving up prices. Not only are our food costs increasing, so too is the cost to fill up your car and power your home. This will only increase further if the government forces our country to transition to alternative energy sources too quickly.
Keith McMullen (Labor): One of the first actions of an incoming Labor Government will be to convene an Australian Jobs Summit consulting with unions, governments, industry and worker's associations to improve worker's wages, job security, make wage theft illegal, ensure same job same pay and close the gender wage gap. This will assist towards a fair and well-paid work force that increases productivity, frees more disposable spending into the economy thus helping to stabilise spirally costs. So does cheaper housing, electricity, much cheaper childcare as well as 465,00 fee-free TAFE place - all of which Labor has plans for once it is in government.
Pat Conaghan (The Nationals): Around 60,000 taxpayers in Cowper will benefit from tax relief of up to $1,500 this year, made up of the $1,080 low and middle income tax offset and a $420 cost of living tax offset. In addition to the one-off cost of living tax offset the Government is also providing a one-off cost of living payment of $250 for Australians most in need. These measures come on top of the $40 billion in tax relief already provided by our Government since the start of the pandemic.
Caz Heise (Independent): Too many people are facing cost of living pressures because of the Coalition government's decade long strategy to suppress wages and welfare payments while rewarding the big end of town. We need significant increases in welfare and pension payments; an increase in rental assistance rates, an increase in the minimum wage, strategies which create job security, incentives for businesses to reverse the casualisation of their workforces, and wages policy more closely linked to productivity. Other ways to reduce cost of living pressures include cheaper child care to incentivise women returning to the workforce, and given higher rates of ill-health in people who are disadvantaged or living close to poverty, an increase to the Medicare rebate and bulk billing opportunities.
Simon Chaseling (Liberal Democrats): The cost of living is being driven by inflation, low wage growth, and a housing shortage. As described above, there are practical and sensible measures that can be taken to alleviate these pressures, through a restraint on excessive government spending and a cutting of the red tape that prohibits sensible development and drives up the cost and accessibility of housing. Wage growth and general prosperity depends on flourishing businesses, not government spending and handouts, small to medium businesses are the engine of the Australian economy and must be helped to grow and compete without being hindered by restrictive government policy and overreach.
Timothy Nott (The Greens): The longer term goal is bring manufacturing back to this country by creating the cheapest energy in world using our natural competitive advantage. With cheap power we can increase the complexity of our manufacturing sector to decrease our dependence on other countries for the basics, increase jobs and protect our national security. The Greens will make the current corporations and billionaires who pay no tax, pay their fair share so we can ensure tax rates for the community and small business are as low as possible.
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