Women challenge climate-change malaise

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“Since the last Federal election Steggall and Haines have been getting calls from other electorates around Australia asking for advice on how they started their community movement,” writes “The Gadfly” columnist ROBERT MACKLIN.  

A POLITICAL movement is afoot among women wanting action on climate change with the potential to transform the Federal Parliament. And the surprise surge of Greens votes in the ACT election provided a massive encouragement to its supporters.

Zali Steggall.

Central figures of the movement are the two independents, Zali Steggall and Helen Haines. Steggall sensationally defeated former Liberal Prime Minister Tony Abbott for his safe Liberal seat of Warringah in the last election, while Helen Haines succeeded fellow independent Cathy McGowan in the Victorian regional seat of Indi. 

It is understood that Rebekha Sharkie, the Member for Mayo in SA – formerly of the Nick Xenophon group – is a supporter and could extend the movement to that state.

Since the last Federal election Steggall and Haines have been getting calls from other electorates around Australia asking for advice on how they started their community movement. They and their supporters have been spreading the net, seeking the involvement of other high-profile women willing to become candidates in the next election. 

Action on climate change is the key motivating issue. However, they will also be campaigning on a Federal ICAC and increasing women’s participation in the workforce. 

Helen Haines.

Last week they advanced on two fronts. On Monday, Helen Haines introduced her own ICAC Bill seconded by Zali Steggall. And on Thursday, Steggall sent an email to supporters announcing that she, Helen Haines and Rebekha Sharkie had signed the notice for her Climate Change Bill to be presented to Parliament on November 9. 

Covid has knocked us for six, but the recovery could be a blessing in disguise if we grasp the opportunity to use government investment to build a green recovery,” she said. 

“And with the economic benefits of cheaper energy, more jobs and increased international investment, now’s the time to commit to a sustainable future through the Climate Bill and secure a safe and prosperous future.” 

She called on supporters to email their MPs and – ever hopeful – the Prime Minister Scott Morrison to back the legislation.

The movement, which began among disenchanted women voters at the lack of climate-change action, has avoided an association with the Greens who have been regarded as left-wing extremists in many of their policies. 

However, the remarkable showing by the ACT Greens has complicated the issue. Led by Shane Rattenbury in coalition with the Labor government, the Canberra jurisdiction has shown itself to be more in line with the movement’s principles. At the same time, their tripling of seats in the ACT Assembly has revealed an upsurge of support for action against climate change among moderate, well-educated voters. 

“The increased ACT seats is really interesting,” according to a close supporter. So, too, was the number of successful women candidates from all parties. 

Meantime, the search goes on for more women to join the movement as candidates from as many electorates as possible while, behind the scenes, support is also coming from women MPs impatient with the climate-change deniers in the Coalition and Labor, which is split by Joel Fitzgibbon and other MPs in coal seats. 

“We can’t go back to the way we were after Covid,” one female MP told your columnist, “This [movement] could shake us all up.” 

robert@robertmacklin.com 

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Robert Macklin
Journalist and author. Contact robert@robertmacklin.com

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