Days out from an election is usually not the time the major parties contesting the poll would change the nature of their pitch to voters. So far, that pitch bears a strong resemblance to those adopted at previous federal polls, appeals to the hip pocket nerve through tax breaks and mortgage relief (Liberal National Party) versus big spending on health and welfare (Labor). Barring a sudden shift in voter sentiment or a surprise issue coming in and knocking both campaigns askew, the LNP and Labor will only sharpen these pitches as they run down to next Saturday.
One issue has struggled to get traction despite it being rated consistently now as one of the most important for Australians. When climate change has been discussed in this campaign, it has been in the context of how much the various policies put forward to tackled it would cost. What little debate there has been has also been dominated by questions of mitigation against future climate change rather than adaptation to the changes that are already occurring. Local communities are in the frontline in fighting the latter.
The other big challenge that is vexing councils, and is related to climate change, is preserving biodiversity. What is called natural resource management is a job that falls mostly on local governments. Queensland councils spend $260 million a year on natural resource management including revegetation, habitat restoration to improve connectivity for biodiversity and other such projects for the protection of biodiversity.
Councils spent about $45 million alone on controlling invasive plants and animals _ that is, preventing native mammals, birds and vegetation from becoming extinct. A recent United Nations paper found that the world risks losing up to one million animal and plant species unless governments at all levels commit to improving biodiversity. Some scientists say the loss of biodiversity poses a greater threat to the world than climate change.
It is local councils that are doing the heavy lifting on preserving biodiversity. For every dollar spent on controlling invasive plants and animals, there is a $2.20 direct benefit to agricultural production and $3.00 of other socio-economic and environmental benefits.
All this is why the LGAQ’s seven-point federal election policy plan calls on all parties to back a program that will share this load. The ask is comparatively small: $9 million over three years but the need is urgent and the ultimate benefits, huge.