After becoming more familiar with the eight candidates for New England, The Northern Daily Leader has found out where they all stand on key issues.
Here are independent candidate Adam Blakester's responses.
Do you think climate change is an urgent issue and what is your policy response to this issue?
Climate change has been an urgent issue since it was first identified more than 40 years ago. We are now witnessing the early-stage impacts and yet the underlying root causes of the problem are still worsening.
Addressing climate change is a major policy priority. A comprehensive set of solutions are detailed to transition to a renewable energy system, address water security, and restore the health of our natural environments in a way that also enhances farming. More details about these are provided below.
I am calling for a national plebiscite to create legislation that ensures Australia will achieve its contribution to the 1.5 degree Paris target. This legislation will make sure that we have a national strategy that reflects the majority view of Australians, instead of the dysfunctional politics we've seen in the last twenty years that reflects the minority views of big fossil fuel interests.
We also need to stop the proposed new and expanded coal and gas mining in our electorate and beyond. This is critical to remaining within the global 'carbon budget', as well as protecting our water and farmland.
Despite all rhetoric, energy prices continue to rise, how do you plan to reduces prices?
Electricity, gas and fuel prices have all risen sharply during the last two terms of the Coalition majority parliament. A major cause of this has been the dysfunction of the Australian Parliament, which has failed to provide leadership and strategies for energy affordability and security.
A national strategy is required to address energy affordability, with three core elements: energy efficiency, transitioning to renewable energy and energy education.
Australia is one of the only advanced economies in the world that doesn't have a national energy efficiency strategy. In simple terms, we need to upgrade the performance of our buildings, homes, machines, manufacturing plants, vehicles and other energy-using equipment. This will reduce the amount of energy we need to achieve the same result of better.
The lowest cost source for new electricity is now renewable plus storage solutions. As old coal and gas fired power stations are retired we need to transition to renewables. We need to do this in a way that provides support for workers and businesses to reskill and gain new jobs.
Lastly, energy education is key to ensure individuals, families and businesses have the knowledge to manage their energy use.
How are you going to achieve water security for our electorate in the short and long term?
We are facing a water crisis. While drought is a major factor, it is not the sole cause and problem.
A comprehensive strategy and system is required to achieve water security. If all we do is focus on dams we will be damned. We need to restore the health of the water cycle. In addition to the climate actions detailed earlier, we need a national strategy to restore the health of our soils, water courses and landscapes. The greatest store of water is in a healthy landscape, not dams.
An independent judicial review, perhaps a Royal Commission, is required to investigate the Murray Darling Basin Authority (MDBA), review the water buy-backs, and make recommendations to restore the integrity and public confidence in the governance and administration of the catchment.
A National Water Commission, with professional expertise and independence from political interference, is required to provide overall governance and accountability. This can address some of the problems with the MDBA instead of it self-regulating, like a fox in charge of a hen house.
One of the greatest threats to water security is mining. As already stated above, we need to stop the proposed new and expanded fossil fuel mining in our electorate, including Shenhua's proposed Watermark mine in the Liverpool Plains.
What is your plan to bring new jobs to the region?
Two of the major strategies to create and bring new jobs to the region are the national energy transition and water security plan as outlined above.
The New England is especially well placed as an identified Renewable Energy Zone due to its abundant natural resources of wind, solar, mountains for pumped hydro storage and the electricity grid. So too, we have world-leading farming expertise and operators who are well positioned to take on the land management changes that are required for water security.
It will be critical though that these two national strategies are taken out of politics and put into long-term, 30-50 year legislation and strategies. This approach is essential to unlock the investment, training, employment and business development and confidence that is required for success. Each of these initiatives could generate thousands of new jobs for the New England. They provide a long-term base for people to stay, and new people to move, to our region.
The other major economic opportunities for our region are in strengthening our standing as a tourism destination, further regionalisation of business and government services, education, knowledge-based professional services, and smart and regenerative farming.
It will be key to keep up infrastructure and essential services to match the growth of our population, visitors and industry needs.
We're in the middle of an ongoing drought, how do you plan to support farmers and businesses?
A triage-type approach is needed to address the impacts of this drought.
I will establish a regional task force to bring together key industry, community and service leaders to actively monitor the situation and ensure that we can effectively work with and influence the various government agencies involved.
The immediate needs that need to be addressed include provision of essential water supplies, support for physical and mental health, plus income support and welfare.
Until the drought breaks, things are likely to get tougher and we need to support each other in every way we can. We need a program of community activities and networking to provide practical and emotional support, plus some occasional light relief.
Additional measures will be required to re-establish farms and businesses once the drought breaks. Grants and low interest loans can smooth cash flow challenges. I will work with the task force to identify the further strategic solutions.
These solutions need to align with the long-term strategies to address water security and climate change as detailed above. We need to improve the resilience of our farms and landscapes to handle droughts, heat stress and extreme weather as these are likely to continue to worsen with climate change.