Members of the Bass Coast Climate Action Network threatened to storm the State Conference of the National Party in Wonthaggi last Saturday, in an effort to raise the profile of action on climate change.


ORGANISERS of the National Party’s State Conference at Wonthaggi on Saturday, May 22, had a “few nervous moments” as members of the Bass Coast Climate Action Network and their supporters tried to gain entry to the conference mid-morning on Saturday.

They were there to call on the National Party to vote in more ‘Climate Change’ related policies and at one stage seemed determined to crash the party’s morning tea break.

But order was restored, and the Climate Change Network group actually ended up praising the Federal Member for Nicholls, Damien Drum, for talking at length to the group, outside the venue for the conference, the Wonthaggi Workmen’s Club.

The National’s State Leader, Peter Walsh, also briefly took the megaphone and spoke to the group, encouraging them to “wait and see” what climate change motions came forward for members’ consideration.

Prior to the main conference day on Saturday, the Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack, had also attended the official conference dinner on Friday night after opening the new ‘MJ McMahon Motel’ on behalf of the workmen’s club.

But he left the conference early to attend the crucial Upper Hunter By-Election in New South Wales, where the National’s candidate Dave Layzell was attracting 56.3% of the two-party preferred vote during counting at the weekend.

Nationals Member for Gippsland South, Danny O’Brien said the conference at Wonthaggi was “an outstanding success”.

“We had 180 delegates registered for the conference, the biggest number in recent years,” Mr O’Brien said, praising the efforts of his Gippsland colleague Melina Bath for her role in organising the event.

Mr O’Brien said there were several motions on the conference agenda related to climate change.

“There was one motion that Australia pull out of the Paris Agreement on Climate Change which was overwhelmingly defeated 170 to 10.

“There was another motion, which came forward from Gippsland South actually, which called for policy which guaranteed that more of the benefits for hosting renewable energy facilities were retained by the local communities.

“There’s a feeling that these large-scale energy facilities are all located in country areas but the power and the benefits are flowing back to the urban areas which remain unaffected by this development.

“We want to see, for example, that there is encouragement for business and manufacturing to grow up beside these facilities and that some of the jobs are retained here.

“I understand that Patties for example, have indicated an interest in taking some of the power from the large-scale solar farms planned for Perry Bridge (south of Stratford), Fulham and Giffard (near Yarram).

“There was another motion, coming through from the women’s conference, seeking policies that help farmers achieve net-zero emissions for their operations which a lot already do. It’s about soil carbon and what else farmers can do to met net-zero and receive the acknowledgement for it.”

Local climate change activist, Neil Rankine, said it was important to continue raising awareness about climate change and the need for action from government and the community.

“We were there to encourage stronger action on climate change by the Nationals, and for them to come out and talk to us,” said Mr Rankine, a former Bass Coast Mayor.

“I’m not sure what motions they had at the conference about it, not many,” he said.

But he did give credit to Nationals MP Damien Drum.

“He acknowledged that more has to happen and said he would continue to argue for more action on climate change. He was pretty good.”

The other controversial issues for the Nationals to navigate at the conference were the bid for the senior vice president’s role by City Builders Church member, Lee Marchant and a motion calling on the party to repeal gay conversion bill.

In fact, the conference overwhelmingly elected former Ararat Rural Councillor Jo Armstrong as senior vice president and East Gippsland’s Chris Nixon as the junior vice president. Former Campaspe Shire Mayor Neil Pankhurst, who was not up for re-election, continues as the Nationals’ State President.

Nationals motions

* Agriculture (1) Zero Net Emissions: That this Conference calls for The Nationals to welcome moves by agricultural industries to achieve zero net emissions and put in place policies to support farmers to achieve this goal (Women’s Conference) – carried.

* 10. Paris Accord: That this Conference calls for Australia to pull out of the Paris Accord (Gippsland FEDC) – lost.

* 11. Renewable Energy Facilities: That this conference recognises that energy and greenhouse gas-reduction benefits of renewable energy facilities are largely captured by urban populations but many of the costs are borne by rural populations and calls on The Nationals to develop policies to ensure that the development of energy facilities in rural areas, particularly wind and solar farms, deliver local benefits to local communities and that such facilities are appropriately sited, as best as possible, away from houses, including farm houses (Gippsland South AEDC) – carried