Climatic debate

Fremantle state election candidates Sam Wainwright, Miquela Riley, Liberty Cramer, Wendy Schulze, Janetia Knapp and Simone McGurk at Thursday’s forum. Photo by Roel Loopers.

CLIMATE change and homelessness dominated the issues at a lively Fremantle state election debate on Thursday evening.

Around 120 voters cheered candidates offering the strongest action on a range of environmental issues from investing in renewable energy to phasing out logging in native forests.

“The defining issue of this campaign should be the climate crisis,” Socialist Alliance candidate Sam Wainwright said to kick off the candidate introductions.

Describing prime minister Scott Morrison’s hint of a technology-driven net-zero emissions target by 2050 as “smoke and mirrors to allow Australia to continue with business as usual”, Mr Wainwright outlined his party’s plan to go carbon neutral by 2030 and “rule out” any further exploration for fossil fuels.

Incumbent Labor MP Simone McGurk and Greens candidate Liberty Cramer exchanged barbs over each other’s contribution to fighting climate change.

Ms McGurk said the most effective control over emissions would be a price on carbon at the federal level, noting the Greens had stymied the Rudd government’s carbon tax while holding out for a “perfect” solution that never eventuated.

Ms Cramer countered that WA Labor closed down debate on the Greens’ climate plan in parliament, ended its moratorium on fracking, and approved projects on the Burrup Peninsula that would produce four times the pollution of Adani’s controversial Carmichael coal mine in Queensland.

Liberal hopeful Miquela Riley provided the night with her own energy, rising to her feet to speak on several occasions, and said under leader Zak Kirkup her party was putting $5 billion towards creating a zero-emission state government by 2030, underpinned by a hydrogen production facility, a solar and wind hub north of Geraldton and the longest electrical vehicle network in the world.

Ms Riley said the plan would be funded by dumping the outer harbour project.

Homelessness also came up regularly, with Notre Dame politics lecturer Martin Drum later telling the Herald the questions and responses showed there were still some raw wounds in the community in the wake of Tent City and its dismantling.

Knapp noted that while the WA government had raked in an extra $1.5 billion in extra royalties from iron ore exports, thousands were still sleeping rough or waiting years for social housing.

“No wonder Tent City came up,” Ms Knapp said.

One of the biggest responses of the night came when Ms Cramer got stuck into the McGowan government over the reduction in public housing on its watch, and then “panicking and running around buying hotel rooms” when tent cities emerged in East Perth and Fremantle to highlight the extent of the problem.

Ms McGurk said her 10-year homelessness strategy had been described by the sector as “world class”, while locally she’d helped get $1 million from state, local and private sources for the Housing First initiative, which had helped to get 20 chronically homeless people a place of their own.

by STEVE GRANT

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