Environment Minister absent at climate forum in his own electorate

8 November 2007

Last night a diverse and at times raucous crowd of 150 Wentworth residents turned out to hear how their candidates for the federal election would deal with the most pressing issue facing the planet: climate change. In a seat where environmental issues are dominating the agenda, it is no surprise that the crowd were fired up and the addresses from the candidates impassioned.

However, there was one surprise: the decision by Environment Minister Malcolm Turnbull not to front up to his own electorate and talk about an issue in his own portfolio.

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An empty chair where the Environment Minister would otherwise be, as the other candidates line up to discuss climate change.

Members and candidates have a responsibility to be answerable to the people they represent. Candidates’ forums provide the perfect platform to do this. They also help candidates gauge public opinion on important issues so they can respond accordingly. When the sitting member fails to show it is a major blow to the event. But when the Environment Minister can’t talk to his electorate about a critical issue over which he has major legislative power, that is an insult.

At least Mr Turnbull wasn’t just sitting at home with his feet up. He was attending another event in Sydney. But our grievance is that he chose not to prioritise his electorate, his portfolio and the opportunity to debate an issue of global significance. The action taken over the next few years will have a major influence on whether or not we avoid dangerous climate change. This is why Mr Turnbull’s decision was so disappointing.

What was great to see last night was five local climate action groups combining to hold the forum and congratulations to them for providing an opportunity for the five candidates who did attend to outline their plans for acting on climate change. It was clear from this forum that many parties understand climate change and are prepared to deliver real solutions. We now have to get the lagging parties up to speed.

All candidates (including the absent Mr Turnbull) are profiled on The Big Switch so if you haven’t already been on to check out who has got the climate credentials in your seat, now is the time to log on and tell your candidates what sort of action will win your vote on November 24!