Michael Panayi’s face was burnt and his goggles melted when a fireball hit him during the Black Saturday bushfires in 2009.
He said he was standing 70 to 80 metres away from the blaze when he was struck, and the fire was behaving in ways he had never seen before.
“This was unseen on the ground at that point in time,” he said.
Mr Panayi lives in the Victorian small town of Kingower, in the electorate of Mallee.
He said his 23 years experience as a volunteer CFA firefighter, and a lifetime working in various roles outdoors and on the land, had shown him what climate change looks and feels like.
Mr Payani was worried politicians were not doing enough to tackle the issue.
“If you’re out there all the time you actually see what’s been happening. They’re just not doing enough, quick enough,” he said.
“It doesn’t matter how good an economy you’ve got. If you haven’t got a world to live in [there’s] no point.
Not everyone shares Mr Panayi’s perspective on climate change.
More Australians mentioned climate change as their number one issue than any other topic in response to the ABC’s Vote Compass survey, but its importance was split along party lines.
Eight per cent of Coalition voters said it was the top issue, compared to 30 per cent of Labor voters and 50 per cent of Greens voters.
The ABC asked each candidate for the seat of Mallee what they would do to mitigate and adapt to climate climate change, protect the environment, and manage water policy.
Candidates are listed in the order they appear on the ballot paper.
Dr Anne Webster, National Party
Dr Webster said the Nationals were committed, if re-elected to government, to “driving down emissions while protecting our economy and jobs”.
“Australia is one of a handful of countries that has released a detailed economy-wide, long-term plan which sets out how we will achieve net zero emissions by 2050,” she said.
Dr Webster said she advocated for many of the 11 wind farms and 44 solar farms in the electorate.
She said she supported $15 million in funding for the Carwarp Solar Hydro Power Plant and $51 million in the Clean Energy Finance Corporation funding for the Kiamal solar plant.
“I will continue to support the development of the KerangLink and MurrayLink inter-connectors which will help provide greater resilience to the national electricity grid and lay the foundation for further renewable electricity generation in Mallee,” she said.
Dr Webster said she favoured the Agriculture Biodiversity Stewardship Package, a market-based mechanism to reward farmers for increasing biodiversity.
She also cited $2.5 million in federal funding for Mallee Sustainable Farming through the Drought Resilience Innovation Grants Program and the $8 million Drought Resilience Adoption and Innovation Hub among the results of her advocacy.
On water policy, Dr Webster said her lobbying “delivered over $4.5 million in key water projects in Mallee, such as flood plain management in areas like Hattah Lakes”.
Dr Webster argued that “the current practice of floodplain harvesting permitted by the NSW government is unacceptable and needs to be stopped”.
She said she and the Nationals “fought hard for a social and economic neutrality test to be applied to the 450GL and any buybacks”.
“This will decimate our horticultural industry.”
Lastly, Dr Webster said the Wimmera Mallee pipeline was implemented by the Nationals in government “and has successfully replaced outdated and inefficient systems”.
Sophie Baldwin, independent
Ms Baldwin said “we must listen to the science and act accordingly”.
“There are many missed environmental opportunities in agriculture that can be capitalised on including tree plantations, wetland protection, carbon sequestration, renewables and regenerative agriculture.”
Ms Baldwin argued that ensuring “an efficient supply chain delivery by investing in rail freight will go a long way toward reducing carbon emissions”.
“Investing in Australian manufacturing will enable our country to become a leader in development and production of green fertilisers,” she said.
“We must continue to invest in the grid and renewable energy and on a smaller scale enable households to access affordable solar and batteries for their homes.”
Claudia Haenel, independent
Ms Haenel said “we know that to attract and then hopefully retain people, green spaces and natural environment is something that people want to see.”
The independent candidate said she was in favour of renewable energy.
“[But] also we can be looking at manufacturing some of the components in certain things, and electric vehicles can help in that space and make each of our regional centres more sustainable for generations to come.”
Christopher Lahy, Australian Citizens’ Party
Mr Lahy claimed the link between human activities and climate change was yet to be proven.
He said Earth’s climate has always changed with cycles of warming and cooling and that “if we humans, in a fit of ego, think we can change these normal planetary processes then we need stronger medication”.
He argued that the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) “has not demonstrated that the sun was not to blame for recent warmings and coolings”.
In February, the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) warned that humanity is on the brink of missing the window to “secure a liveable and sustainable future for all” and reported that “it is unequivocal that human influence has warmed the atmosphere, ocean and land”.
Carole Hart, Labor
Ms Hart did not respond to ABC requests for comment, however Labor Leader Anthony Albanese has promised to “end the climate wars” if elected, and has a series of policies on climate change, water, and the environment.
Labor’s policy is to reduce emissions by 43 per cent by 2030 and reach net zero emissions by 2050.
The party has also promised to “protect the Great Barrier Reef, fix Australia’s urban rivers and catchments, and double the number of Indigenous Rangers”.
On water policy, Labor has committed to establish a National Water Commission “to drive ongoing water reform and future-proof Australia’s water resources”.
The party also want to broaden the National Water Grid investment policy to allow funding for a broader range of projects including agricultural projects and town water supplies in regional and remote communities.
Finally, the party has a “five point plan to safeguard the Murray Darling Basin” by:
- Delivering on water commitments including the 450GL for South Australia
- Increasing compliance, and improving metering and monitoring
- Restoring transparency, integrity and confidence in water markets and water management
- Increasing First Nations ownership and involvement in decision-making
- Updating the science
Sam McColl, the Greens
Mr McColl said the party’s “first demand” is an immediate stop to all new coal, oil, and gas projects.
“The Greens are the only party with a fully-costed climate plan based on the science,” he said.
“We will support households and small businesses to get off gas and move to electric alternatives that are better for our health and the environment through grants of up to $25,000 and loans up to $100,000.”
Mr McColl said the Greens will also work with farmers to increase carbon sequestered on land.
“We have a fully-costed plan to invest $24 billion over the next decade in a mass greening and restoration program, and establish an Independent Environment Watchdog to enforce stronger environmental laws and hold governments, mining corporations and property developers to account,” he said.
The Greens candidate also said First Nations peoples’ deep knowledge and connection to country must be respected.
“[Programs] empowering First Nations people to care for the land should be well-funded,” Mr McColl said.
On water policy, Mr McColl said “corporate greed and climate change are killing our nation’s largest river system”.
He said the Greens would reinstate water buybacks to fulfil the Murray Darling Basin Plan and establish a federal royal commission “to clean up corruption and mismanagement, save the river system, and reinstate confidence that science is at the centre of decisions”.
“As your MP, I would also work with state governments to ensure the 44 recommendations of the South Australian Royal Commission are implemented in full,” he said.
“The Greens will not sit by as Australia’s food bowl turns to dust.”
Stuart King, United Australia Party
On climate change, Mr King said “it would be appropriate to undertake a review of all the current climate change science and opinions, as I am aware that there are many and varied conflicting views of the existence and/or impact of climate change in Australia”.
On water policy, Mr King said he is committed to “overhauling the Murray Darling Basin Plan for the long term benefit of agricultural, environmental and recreational outcomes”.
He listed the UAP’s plans for water:
- No more Government buybacks of irrigator’s water
- Regulation of floodplain harvesting in the northern basin
- Transparency of water ownership (National Water Register)
- Return water to being a production commodity with irrigation water attached to land titles rather than an investment commodity.
- Environmental allocations based on need and outcomes rather than numerical targets.
- Consistent rules across the states
- Investment in nation-building water projects such as a revised Bradfield scheme, the Clarence River diversion scheme, and other new water storages
Vanessa Atkinson, Pauline Hanson’s One Nation
Ms Atkinson did not respond to the ABC’s attempts to contact her for comment.
She is among about a dozen “ghost” candidates running for Pauline Hanson’s One Nation this election who had not been seen or heard actively campaigning in the electorates they are contesting.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Candidates’ responses have been edited for brevity and clarity.