Any campaign veteran will tell you that voters are fickle, switching from candidate to candidate and issue to issue as the whim takes them. But in Australia, voters may have changed their minds once and for all on the issue of climate change. In mid-2006, something seemed to shift climate from an ‘issue of concern’ to the top of the list of people’s most serious considerations. …
Blame any number of factors for the switch: Al Gore’s visit to Australia in September 2006 (and Prime Minister John Howard’s refusal to meet with him); the October 2006 release of Nicholas Stern’s review of the economics of climate change, which estimated vast costs if global warming is not stemmed soon; and, looming over all, the drought that is plaguing Australia, by some measures the worst in a century or more.
The timing could not be worse for Howard (pictured above), the Liberal prime minister who has led Australia for 11 years and is behind in opinion polls in his quest for a fifth term in office. On 24 November, Howard will face his Labor opponent, Kevin Rudd, in a federal election to determine who will form the next national government. And climate is shaping up as a major election issue. One of Howard’s defining foreign-policy stances has been his refusal to ratify the Kyoto Protocol to control greenhouse-gas emissions; Rudd has vowed to ratify it immediately if elected.
One thing that is not mentioned is that Howard is at risk of losing his own seat over the issue:
Published in newspapers today, [the ads] are the inspiration of the prominent Melbourne businessman Bill McHarg, who wants voters in the marginal seat of Bennelong to put the “Planet First and Howard last”.
It’s a $200,000 guerilla campaign that could not come at a worse time for the Prime Minister who is, according to the latest opinion polls, trailing his Labor Party opponent, Maxine McKew, by the slenderest of margins.
While Mr McHarg is refusing to endorse any other candidate or party, he wants voters to set a precedent by being the first to dump a world leader who has – he claims – “deliberately and wilfully ignored the single biggest threat to our Australian way of life: climate change”. …
But the Herald understands that Mr McHarg, who resigned from Colliers this week as a founding director of the property multinational, is also bitter over attempts by the Prime Minister’s office to silence him on environmental issues. Last year during an interview on ABC Radio National, Mr McHarg criticised Mr Howard for failing to grasp the significance of climate change issues.
Mr McHarg has told colleagues his comments drew a strong rebuke from Colliers management and the Prime Minister’s office.
Update: McHarg’s youtube piece mentioned in the ad: