Climate and energy have grow to be a flashpoint within the federal election, but will voters listen if the economy doesn't improve?

With federal elections looming in May 2025, few doubt that the high cost of living, particularly energy policy and the draconian impact of electricity prices, will play a significant role. But the underlying economic situation will determine how necessary these arguments are to voters.

In other words, the “climatic” or structural conditions of the economy – that are largely beyond the control of politicians – will help to either confirm or neutralise the allegations made by the varied parties – be they government parties, opposition parties, Greens or independents.

This is important given the centrality of climate and energy policy. A campaign specializing in these issues may benefit the Greens and independent Teal MPs – however the Coalition believes it could possibly turn these issues into household money matters.

Electricity bill and calculator
The coalition believes it could possibly turn the climate and energy debate right into a budget-friendly affair.
Jono Searle/AAP

The language of the election campaign

Imagine the next scenario: It is February 2025 and what appears like a recession to abnormal people has been happening for 2 years. But now things are looking up and a spotlight is popping to the upcoming federal election campaign.

Who would win within the opinion polls? In all likelihood, this is able to rely on how long inflation has continued and whether its slowdown has had any significant Interest relief just in time for the actual election season.

Even if we assume that the inflation dragon has been tamed – brought below 3%. How quickly and decisively would the Reserve Bank act to ease mortgage and rental pressures on households and businesses? The central bank could be extremely cautious and would need to be sure that price stabilisation is strong.

Let's assume that rates of interest do indeed fall. Even an improvement in conditions brings with it fresh memories of hardship – and maybe exaggerated fears of economic setback. As Frank Bongiorno has previously noted, John Howard's sharp rhetoric from the opposition before his election victory in 1996 is a working example:

Howard's witty comment from opposition in 1995 that the recovering economy was “five minutes of economic sunlight” was effective policy. But it was not backed up by the brand new government's accounts, which spoke of a “generally favourable outlook”.

The lesson is that political messages resonate after they feel right to voters – even in the event that they will not be technically correct.

Woman shopping for fruit and vegetables
In the run-up to the election, opinion polls are more likely to concentrate on inflation and rates of interest.

The conditions are ripe for the Greens and Blue-Greens

Putting aside the vagaries of prediction and the facility of negative rhetoric, what we are able to clearly see as we approach the 2024 halfway point is that each side – actually all sides – say they’d be pleased to see climate change on the centre of the 2025 election.

Of course, not all of them could be right. It is inevitable that the political climate will favor some political critics greater than others.

For Adam Bandt’s Green Party, the quadrupled its holdings In the House of Representatives, climate policy and environmental protection are key issues within the 2022 elections.

The Greens have taken the initiative to combat rising rents – a key issue for younger voters. And the party has sharply criticized the Albanese Labor government's approval of recent fossil fuel projects, claiming that this fatally compromises Labor's renewable energy policy – like hitting the emissions brake and the accelerator at the identical time. Some, perhaps many, voters will agree with this.

And what concerning the independent Teal candidates? In 2022, they received financial support from Simon Holmes, Court's Climate 200 funding vehicle. The call for a rapid transition to renewable energy was central to the Teals' identity, and therefore to their electorate. Their astonishing success in capturing solid inner-city Liberal seats was made possible specifically by the Morrison coalition's deficiencies on climate policy, amongst its quite a few failings.

The Labour Party has also seized the climate challenge with each hands, although its pledge to chop emissions by 43% by 2030 was deliberately less ambitious than the policy it proposed in 2019. Now there’s Doubt This commitment can also be being kept, which improves the prospects of the Greens and Teals.

Peter Dutton's dangerous bet

And then there’s Peter Dutton's coalition. Dutton has boldly attempted to assert a link between Labor's ongoing energy transition and high electricity prices – a link that is essentially fictitious.

“I am very happy that the election is a referendum on energy,” Dutton saidwhile committing his party to a radical nuclear power policy that’s each costly and should take many years to implement.

Dutton claims his capital-intensive nuclear option would take Australia to net-zero emissions by 2050. But will voters accept his recent green force? And what about his own colleagues? Some Coalition MPs are privately watching their leader's high-risk nuclear adventure with concern. One told me it was an “all-or-nothing bet with the odds stacked against nothing”.

Former Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull is less cautious. Turnbull, who was twice elected by the suitable for his efforts to “green” the Liberal Party, criticised the proposal to bring seven state-run nuclear reactors online inside 20 to 30 years as delusional. He wrote for Guardian Australia:

The first episode of the climate wars was a tragedy, the second is an expensive and dangerous farce.

two men and a woman stand at the lectern
Dutton claims his capital-intensive nuclear option would take Australia to net-zero emissions by 2050.
Bianca Di Marche/AAP

An exciting competition

Even if the 2025 election campaign had not become a flashpoint over nuclear energy, it might still be an exciting campaign. Like his predecessor Tony Abbott, Dutton has tried to portray Labor, Green and Teal's efforts to scale back emissions because the reason for high electricity prices for personal households.

Effective as this will likely be, Dutton's determination to tug the Liberal-National parties further to the suitable has nevertheless raised hopes that the Teals won’t only retain their seats in 2025, but potentially double them. To this end, Climate 200 intended financial support for climate-friendly candidates in three electorates within the state of Victoria (Casey, Monash, Wannon), two electorates in New South Wales (Cowper, Bradfield) and 4 electorates in Queensland (McPherson, Moncrief, Fisher, Fairfax).

This matters for the general election consequence. Whether intentional or not, the Teals have grow to be a “Swiss Guard” for Albanese, making it difficult for Dutton's coalition to achieve the 76 seats it needs for a majority government.

Difficult, but not unattainable. As at all times, the actual and perceived economic outlook shall be decisive.

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