The Beagle Editor,
Like the Badja Forest Rd and Currowan fires, two big elections loom eerily on the horizon, and are soon to come bearing down upon us, whether we like it or not. If greeted by the winds of change, these elections may well bring the opportunity for state and national government renewal. A rejuvenation desperately needed.
I have never really cared about voting before. I felt, like many, we just had to endure the periodic serving of cheesy slogans, from the revolving door of career politicians. I would roll my eyes at the nauseating promises from narcissistic politicians, desperate to get elected or re-elected, then disappear into the Canberra bubble, never to be seen until the next election. But the events of the past couple of years have ignited a political passion in me. Born from a place of deep care, duty and responsibility for the health and wellbeing of my family and community, the environment and a raft of other important issues, within which our prosperous future is intimately bound. This passion led me to run as a candidate at the Eurobodalla council elections and is also the driving force behind many other medical doctors stepping into politics. Doctors such as local candidate retired Obstetrician and Gynaecologist Dr Michael Holland.
I first met Dr Holland when I was pregnant with my second child – more than eight years ago now. It was a rather emotional time in my life, but the support I received from him and the team of caring midwifes at Moruya hospital was invaluable. It felt good to be in trustworthy hands.
So much has changed since those days of being a stay-at-home mum, bleary eyed and wearing milk-stained clothes. Bushfires, floods and the pandemic have changed everything and brought immense suffering for many, especially for vulnerable groups such as pregnant women and infants. Political candidates need to be in touch with their communities, now more than ever. They also need to be across many issues, and have a genuineness, integrity and intelligence – attributes that Dr Holland certainly has. He understands the challenges facing our community and has helped guide many families through these unprecedented times, providing professional and caring support, with limited resources. In his down time, he has been relentlessly advocated for better healthcare for the south coast of NSW.
He has seen first-hand the devastation of the climate-fueled bushfires and their far-reaching impact on our communities. Dr Holland says: "We all lived through the bushfire experience two years ago. That is a direct consequence of climate change.” Greens candidate Peter Haggar and Sustainable Party Dr Karin Geiselhart agree. But despite stating she aligns to ‘evidence’, Liberals Dr Fiona Kotjvos is silent on this subject. In the past, she has cherry picking decade-old information, and has managed, so far, to avoid offering up a fresh perspective on this subject.
By contrast, Dr Michael Holland has been involved in research of the impacts of bushfires on pregnant women and babies as well as contributed to the recent Royal Australian College of Physicians report on climate change and Australia's healthcare system. “We have a responsibility to future generations to act on climate and we must strengthen our healthcare systems to become more resilient in the face of worsening disasters,” he says. “Labor has a plan to do this. We have committed to a 50% reduction by 2030, net zero by 2050, a legislated Carbon Emissions Reduction Target as well as a Zero Emissions Tribunal.”
Dr Karin Geiselhart offers similar reduction commitments, along with an array of sensible policies to match. Peter Haggard from the Greens says “it’s imperative we keep below 1.5%” (above pre-industrial temperatures) and ambitiously want to cut emissions by 50% in 2025, 80% by 2030 and net zero by 2040. This is aligned with the science and the best possible outcome for our future. I want to hear the climate commitments of Liberal candidate Dr Kotjvos. I hope she will return my call.
The climate crisis is upon us and is impacting our health – now. It’s beyond political partisanship and demands all our attention and action. Climate change is the great amplifier. It makes heat waves, bushfire seasons and droughts longer and more intense. It makes rainfalls heavier and storms and flooding more severe. It is increasing our average temperature which is changing disease patterns, such as dengue and malaria. Climate change threatens our food and water security. The list goes on. It is not a linear change – rather, it’s accelerating, bringing worsening catastrophes with each fraction of a degree we continue to heat. The science is well established. Greenhouse gases, like carbon dioxide and methane, have accumulated in our atmosphere since the industrial revolution mainly from burning fossil fuels and land clearing. These gases act like a blanket, heating the earth’s land and seas. The more we keep polluting our atmosphere, the hotter it is going to get. And worst of all, we are dangerously close to the point of no return. A point at which, earth climate control systems are all de-activated and the heating will accelerate beyond our control. We have just this decade to act. Or we will see a vastly different future for ourselves and our children.
This brings me back to becoming political. These unprecedented times are seeing an uprising of unexpected leaders – and this is an important silver lining. They are emerging to renew our faith and trust in politics, and it would be wise of us to vote them in. It would be wise of us to use our preferences to send a message to the Canberra bubble: NOW is the time for renewal, NOW is the time for change.
I know where I’m putting my vote this election -- in trustworthy hands.
Voting in local, state and federal elections is compulsory. Use your power in deciding our future. Vote for climate action.
Dr Michelle Hamrosi
Surf Beach General Practitioner
Member of South Coast Health and Sustainability Alliance and Doctors for the Environment