John Englart

John Englart

Citizen journalist at No Fibs
John Englart has always had a strong social and environmental focus and over the past 10 years climate change science, climate policy and climate protest have become an increasingly important and primary focus of his work as a citizen journalist.
John Englart
I am involved in various Moreland-based community groups including Sustainable Fawkner where I blog on local and sustainability issues, Climate Action Moreland and Moreland Bicycle Users Group. I am also a member of Friends of the Earth, off and on, since 1976, and wrote the contribution on the Rides Against Uranium in the 1970s for the Friends of the Earth Australia book to mark the 30-year anniversary of FoE – 30 Years of Creative Resistance.

Western Australian voters go to the polls this Saturday on March 11. There is the smell of change in the air, and in the polls.

Liberal Party Premier Colin Barnett has had two terms in government since 2008 and is seeking a third term. Even so, the Labor Opposition lead by Mark McGowan needs a statewide swing of about 10 per cent to form government. The polling indicates that such a swing is in the air.

The ABC election analyst Antony Green has an excellent blog on Vote Formality Rules in Western Australia. He also gives a Summary of Candidates and Parties Contesting the 2017 WA Election. Green also highlights continuing malapportionment of votes in the Legislative Council with voters in the Mining and Pastoral Region having votes that carry six times the weight of voters in Perth, while voters in the Agricultural Region have four times the power of voters in Perth. The ABC has full coverage at it’s WA Election 2017 website.

The preference whisperer Glen Druery is reported to be active advising micro parties how to cross preference for the chance of one of them (in each region) being elected to the WA Legislative Council. Could we see the anti-science policies of the anti-flouride party (Fluoride Free WA) win a seat? Could it be any worse than the anti-science global climate conspiracy theories (see this 2013 Pauline Hanson article) of One Nation?

The Western Australian mining boom is well passed it’s peak with most of the big energy projects now in production and export phase, and the consequent down turn in mining construction jobs. Much of the mining royalties will dribble in to the state’s revenue coffers in decades to come, but state expenditure on supporting mining development has left a $33 billion budget deficit.

Indeed, it seems very generous tax concessions will minimise any returns to the Commonwealth from the huge Western Australian offshore gas infrastructure investments from Gorgon, Wheatstone and Pluto projects for decades, if at all, according to a recent report in the Sydney Morning Herald: Turnbull government called on to explain where Australia’s offshore gas wealth is going. By 2021 when Australia is likely to surpass Qatar as the largest natural gas exporter, Australia is estimated to receive just $800 million in royalties and taxes while Qatar’s government will receive $26.6 billion in royalties for a similar quantity of gas exported.

In the middle of this election is the rise in polling numbers for Pauline Hanson’s One Nation. There was a preference deal, the ABC reported, which the WA Liberal Party did with One Nation in an attempt to shore up preference votes in what looks like a tight election at best for them. And signs both Liberal and One Nation voters are disgruntled with this deal.

But Pauline Hanson’s January promise of supporting a greater share of GST revenue from Queensland to Western Australia made on radio, and her more recent categorical statement “that at no point have I ever said strip GST money out of Queensland or any state specifically” seems to highlight she is playing both Queensland and WA voters.

After vociferous public reaction to Hanson’s anti-vaccination answers on ABC Insiders Program on 5th March, she has now backtracked and partially apologised reports SBS, but on climate change she is still in denial of the science.

But the Liberal-One Nation preference story gets even stranger, with a sitting WA Liberal MP Dr Graham Jacobs spotted ‘handing out’ One Nation election material at pre-poll in Esperance in his seat of Eyre, according to a Sydney Morning Herald report.

Impacts of climate change in Western Australia

Western Australia is also facing higher impacts from climate change. Just breeze through the official information:

  • Between 20,000 and 30,000 residential buildings at risk from a 1.1 metre sea level rise this century at a cost between $5 billion and $8 billion (and scientists are now saying 2m or more may occurr by 2100)
  • Innundation of 9000 kilometres of WA’s roads, 114 kilometres of WA’s railways and up to 2100 commercial buildings, with an estimated value of $11.3 billion, $500 million and $17 billion respectively.
  • Rainfall in south-west WA already reduced by around 15 per cent since the mid-1970s. From 1911 to 1974 the average stream flow into Perth Dams was 338 gigalitres. From 1975 to 2000 average stream flow was 177 gigalitres. From 2001 to 2010 inflows were 75 gigalitres.
  • Annual average number of days above 35 degrees Celsius in Perth projected to increase from 28 to 67 days by 2070, without global action to reduce emissions.
  • Projections indicate an increase in the intensity and frequency of bushfires.
  • Increase in hot weather projected to result in more heat-related deaths. By 2100, with no mitigation, 685 temperature related deaths are projected, compared to 515 in a world with no human induced climate change.
  • Related health risks from impact of severe weather events including bushfires and heatwaves, food-borne infectious diseases, increases in air pollution and mental health consequences. Adverse health impacts of climate change are felt greatest among people on lower incomes, children, the elderly and the sick.
  • The South-west is a global biodiversity hotspot containing unique plant and animal species. Urban development and climate change has severe impacts on endemic species in the south-west, including native fish which are vulnerable under higher temperatures.
  • Yield reductions in wheat are likely with cropping to be non-viable at the dry margins with strong warming and significant reductions in rainfall. Wheat production projections in WA could decline by 8.9 per cent by 2030 and 13.4 per cent by 2050. Sheep productivity may be similarly affected.

Even faced with these climate impacts, the Barnett government is pushing ahead with the Roe 8 freight-link development. This demonstrates it’s lack of awareness on environmental fragmentation of important wetlands and the threat to Western Australia’s fragile biodiversity and unique ecosystems. See the report in The Conversation on Roe 8: Perth’s environmental flashpoint in the WA election. Perth’s urban development is generally impacting on the threatened Banksia woodlands.

Fracking for unconventional gas and privatisation of Western Power are other related social and environmental and concerns this election. See my article Fracking, Western Power privatisation issues as Western Australia goes to the polls. Labor Opposition Leader Mark McGowan claimed on ABC radio AM Program that with privatised utilities, prices will go up. WAtoday have built upon my story on author Tim Winton speaking out on fracking as an election issue with a comprehensive and detailed article: Tim Winton speaks on gas fracking, WA’s ‘digging and dealing’ economy. Fracking is definitely on the nose out there in the community.

Election Scorecards

In terms of elections I have always been driven more by policy than personality. Good policy should drive the voting process. More often than not policy resides in the background and the personalities of candidates, and particularly party leaders, becomes the prominent influence.

Independent non-government organisations can and do help address this focus problem. These organisations have expertise in policy areas and their rating and comparing of party policies is a useful policy driven barometer for casting your vote.

So, here are the election scorecards I have come across for the 2017 Western Australian state election

Public Health



Conservation and environment

Climate and clean energy

I saved the best to last. The Rottnest Wind Turbine (@rottoturbine) has done the hard work comparing the climate and energy policies of the major parties in Western Australia, although I updated the information on One Nation in this policy area. Sorry, you need to click through for the final scores on this one: