With two weeks to go until the 2022 federal election, most of the major policy offerings from the major parties have already been outlined — but there are some major gaps. From conservation to education and the arts, both Labor and the Coalition lack detail. Here are six areas where voters are left in the dark:
There is no shortage of evidence that Australian governments are failing to protect the country’s environment and that its unique wildlife and landscapes are suffering.
Over the past three years, the evidence has been laid out in several reports. Graeme Samuel, the former head of the competition watchdog, was tasked with conducting a ten-year review of national conservation laws and found them to be failing and the environment in unsustainable decline. The Auditor General came to similar conclusions.
The coalition cut funding for environmental programs sharply after its 2013 election and has only partially recovered. Australia is the global capital for the extinction of mammals. The number of endangered ecosystems and species is increasing, partly due to extreme events such as forest fires and the warming of the ocean due to the climate crisis. Plans to protect them are often not implemented.
Despite this, at the time of writing, neither major party had issued a new overarching environmental policy, or formally responded to Samuel’s 38 recommendations on how to resolve the Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act.
The coalition has tried and failed to pass legislation that would give state governments more environmental decision-making powers – a move described as cutting “green tape” – and has been criticized for protecting animals in the game would not improve. His pledges are here.
Labor has sharply criticized the government’s performance and has suggested that it listen to Samuel. But after taking a clear stance for the 2019 elections, including a pledge to review the laws and introduce a national environmental protection authority, things have calmed down this time. His pledges are here.
The Greens’ policy includes supporting much stricter environmental laws and setting a target of “zero extinctions by 2030”.
What could the next government do to address the problem? Some scientists have set out their view here.
Australian scientists are calling for more government funding for research, which has declined in recent years despite vaccines and treatments for Covid-19, highlighting the key role science plays in tackling global challenges.
The pandemic has led to widespread job insecurity and plummeting morale among Australian researchers. A decision by the Morrison government in December to veto certain grants has had a “horrifying effect” on Australia’s academic independence and made it more difficult to attract international talent, a Senate inquiry found in March.
A new position statement from the Australian Academy of Science (AAS) criticizes the current approach to scientific funding as “not fit for purpose”.
It said: “Today, Australia’s science funding system is characterized by a really declining grassroots level of government support for public science agencies and universities.”
“Despite one-off funding for research and science during the pandemic, the Australian government’s investment in science in 2021 amounted to 0.56% of gross domestic product – which is lower than comparable countries – and has declined over the past decade.”
It comes amid criticism from a leading Australian climate scientist that the national science agency, the CSIRO, has turned into a “very extravagant consultancy” under the coalition.
Prof David Karoly, who worked on four of the Intergovernmental Panel’s six major assessments on climate change, told Guardian Australia this week that CSIRO scientists were not allowed to speak publicly about government policy and that the cuts had turned the agency into a dependent on outside contracts to survive.
As Covid-19 was about to send Australia into its first series of major lockdowns in early 2020, the coalition government incorporated the Ministry of Arts and Communications into a “super-department” called the Ministry of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Communications, with the the arts as a portfolio. †
In the following year, the arts and culture sectors were the hardest hit financially, with tourism and hospitality. Lockdowns, venue closures and social distancing rules have drained approximately $1.4 billion from the live entertainment industry in 2020 alone.
Yet none of the major political parties has so far mapped out a single cultural policy in the election campaign.
In the March federal budget, Josh Frydenberg confirmed that the Covid-19 arts aid program, the Restart Investment to Sustain and Expand (RISE) fund — a $200 million outlay over the past two years — would provide an additional $20 million. received over the next 12 months; then all aid to the arts related to a pandemic would end, despite the industry’s top agencies warning that the industry would take years to recover from 24 months of inactivity and financial exhaustion.
The ALP would not be drawn on whether the party would announce an arts or culture policy before the election. The office of Labor’s arts spokesman Tony Burke would not confirm whether Labor would reintroduce the word ‘arts’ to its art portfolio should the party form the next government.
Policies that arts and cultural agencies want to prioritize after the election include a national insurance scheme to cover cancellations or postponements of live events due to Covid infection (the state-based systems currently only cover disruptions due to border closures or lockdowns – scenarios looking increasingly unlikely as states and territories ease their public health restrictions), an umbrella fully funded cultural agency to educate, promote and significantly expand all of the First Nations’ arts practices , and, in the screen industry, a federal government commitment to enact laws for Australian content quotas for the multinational streaming platforms.
Given continued high levels of virus transmission across the country, many more Covid deaths this year than the previous two years combined, and the arrival of three new Omicron subvariants in Australia, health experts have expressed surprise at the absence of coronavirus policies during the election campaign. .
“Policy-wise, there’s almost nothing, which is great considering [Covid] has dominated Australia for the past two and a half years,” said Prof. Adrian Esterman, chair of epidemiology at the University of South Australia.
†[Covid] has not gone. It’s still there, even if the polls don’t think so,” he said. “There’s just no guarantee that we won’t see a new variant coming in the coming weeks … that is even more transferable than these new sub-variants.”
The coalition has not announced any pandemic-specific policies as part of its election campaign, but Labor has said it would establish an Australian Center for Disease Control to prepare for a pandemic. The move was pushed back in 2020, but the pledge has barely been mentioned in recent weeks of the election campaign.
Last month, the Senate Covid Committee called for the creation of an Australian CDC. Agencies, including the Australian Medical Association and the Australasian Society for Infectious Diseases, have said such a center was long overdue.
Anthony Albanese has also expressed support for a royal commission on Australia’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Education is usually a central theme in the election and 2019 was no different, with Labor pledging $14 billion over 10 years for public schools.
That ambition has been scaled back this time, with Labor promising a “road” to full funding only when states and the Commonwealth renegotiate funding deals that run through the end of 2023, on top of $440 million in new grant funding to help students and educators manage the pandemic.
The coalition has been even more restrictive in its pledges, pledging $21.6 million to respond to priorities including the pandemic and $40 million for 700 new teachers for Teach for Australia and 60 new teachers through La Trobe’s Nexus program. university.
While these initiatives may be worthwhile, none of them answer teachers’ union concerns about when public schools will receive full funding and catch up with major injustices with non-governmental schools. The Greens have proposed giving public schools $49 billion over 10 years to fully fund all costs, including out-of-pocket costs charged to parents and guardians.
Higher education policy has been quiet since the coalition passed the job-ready graduate reform package and increased the cost of arts and other degrees in 2020.
In December, Labor promised up to 20,000 additional university places in 2022 and 2023, and 465,000 free Tafe places in skills-deficient areas. Tanya Plibersek has promised an “agreement” with universities to overhaul the funding system, but that doesn’t stop at committing specific changes.
The coalition has pledged $240 million for “precursor universities,” a boost to wage subsidies for regional students and $22.6 million for more than 29,000 additional education support places.