Independent climate campaigner ends Liberals’ 61-year hold of Wagga Wagga

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As farmers protest lack of climate action in Canberra, a seat held by the Liberal Party since 1957 has been won by a climate activist, pro-renewables independent. What’s gives?

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The Daily Telegraph is calling it a Bush Bloodbath. But could the crushing by-election defeat of the Liberal Party in a regional seat it has held safely since 1957 be more accurately described as a Climate Comeuppance?

The final numbers are not in yet, but it has been called: The blue ribbon Riverina electorate of Wagga Wagga has been won by an independent candidate called Joe McGirr – a medical doctor who puts climate change firmly at the top of his political agenda.

Dr Joe, according to an article published late last week in The Australian, is not for turning on this stance, and has gone as far as to have “written articles” about the dangers of the global warming and supported organisations like the Climate Council.

Indeed, according to his profile page, the Associate Professor at the University of Notre Dame, was a co-author of a 2014 paper published in the Australian Journal of Rural Health, titled “Preparing rural general practitioners and health services for climate change and extreme weather.”

And he even supports renewables!

“I have said I think renewable energy is important and I have said that in a public forum,” McGirr told the paper.

“I accept that is not what conservative people want but that’s my view of the situation. I have got to stick to my guns.

“As far as I’m aware, the Liberal Party has a policy that says ­climate change is an issue.”

Certainly, it would appear to be an issue for Australian farmers, a group of which – some of them perhaps from the Riverina region – have graced the first day of the Morrison government with a protest outside Parliament, to demand climate action is taken.

In any case, McGirr stuck to his guns, and he won – albeit, a seat that was clouded with controversy over the indiscretions of the outgoing Liberal member.

Could it be that climate change is not the political poison it is made out to be?

Not according to Australia’s former energy and environment minister, and current Treasurer, Josh Frydenberg.

Frydenberg – who on Sunday quoted Bismarck is his explanation of why the NEG has been gutted of its emissions component and left for “dead” – said that climate change, generally, and emissions reduction, specifically, had long dogged both sides of politics.

“Parliament has failed to deal with this issue for over a decade,” he told Barrie Cassidy on ABC TV’s Insiders program.

“What you will hear from us that you will not hear from the Labor Party, we will put reducing people’s power bills first over emissions.

“So that’s your policy, straight up?” said a bemused Cassidy.

“That is our straight out position, unequivocal.”

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