Could climate change hurt Australian Labor Party on next election?

12:54, July 18, 2010      

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Climate change is set to be a big issue at the 2010 poll in Australia, but it was not clear whether it will hurt or help Prime Minister Julia Gillard's chances to win next election, local media reported on Sunday.

Labor's strong stance on climate change helped the party sweep to power in 2007.

"Global warming has been one of the toughest issues for Labor in its first term, and it could cost the government votes," Australian Associated Press (AAP) reported on Sunday.

Former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd famously declared climate change was "the great moral challenge of our time", but his decision to delay the emissions trading scheme has hurt Labor.

Two other climate schemes, roof insulation and Green Loans for homes, also failed.

Labor's climate credentials were battered and Gillard has just five weeks to rebuild them, the AAP said.

After announced the election date on August 21, Gillard said Labor would focus on the economy, education and its commitment to deal with big issues such as climate change.

According to Sydney Morning Herald, Gillard has stood by delaying the Emission Trading Scheme until at least 2013, but a hot topic is whether she will push for a temporary carbon levy to be introduced earlier.

Policies have been expected to include a major boost to energy efficiency, such as cutting power use to reduce emissions, and to renewable energy.

Labor may ban new coal-fired power stations without low- emissions technology, or pay to shut down sections of some power stations.

Meanwhile, the Liberals already have a climate policy: to create a "direct action" fund to store carbon pollution in the soil and trees, without having any carbon price.

"Conservationists generally do not support Liberal's approach, and Gillard may try to out-green the Liberals," Herald said.

In return, the opposition said the Labor's climate change policy will hurt Australians' standard of living.

"The Coalition and only the Coalition has a clear policy to deal with it," opposition leader Tony Abbott said.

"Julia Gillard will talk to you about a carbon price, but she won't actually establish how she'll get it, what it will be and how much it's going to raise the cost of everyday living."

Polls showed voters think climate change is real and want action but are less concerned about the issue than they were a few years ago.

Since climate change issues have been hurting Labor Party, and it will continue to hurt their polls, AAP said, Gillard must decide whether to try and turn the issue into a vote-winner for Labor, or neutralize the issue.

Some insiders said with the hot-button issue of asylum seekers proving difficult for Gillard, she may try to create a diversion by a focus on climate change.

"With neither major party set to opt for an ambitious climate policy - there will be questions around whether either policy can achieve the minimum target of a 5 percent emissions cut -- the Australian Greens could be the big winners from the issue," Herald reported.

Greens leader Bob Brown said "both parties failed at the first hurdle" on climate change. "Moving forward will mean a carbon tax on polluters," he said.

Tougher action on climate change and a more compassionate approach towards refugees will be the key messages of the Greens' campaign.

If the climate is weighing on voters' minds, it could help the Greens take a historic lower-house seat, and win the balance of power in the Senate.

That would give them real power for three years and change the landscape of climate politics.

Source: Xinhua

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