Climate and LGBT equality campaigners have rounded on the Liberal candidate for Eden-Monaro, Fiona Kotvojs, in the lead-up to Saturday’s by-election, with one warning she is more conservative on climate change than Tony Abbott.
Matthew Nott, the founder and president of Clean Energy for Eternity, made the comparison in reference to comments Kotvojs made at a meeting with the local climate group ahead of the 2019 election that Australia’s contribution to global emissions is minute.
Equality campaigners have also raised concerns over submission to the Ruddock religious freedom review, signed by Kotvojs, arguing that wedding service providers should be able to discriminate against same-sex weddings or any vision of marriage that violates their sincerely held beliefs.
On Monday Guardian Australia revealed that Kotvojs, who has a history of downplaying the human contribution to global heating, had submitted to the bushfire royal commission in April that governments cannot address heat as a cause of bushfires so must focus on managing fuel loads instead.
On Tuesday, Kotvojs was grilled about her position at a press conference in Lobs Hole, telling reporters she believes humans are contributing to climate change but repeatedly refusing to say if she thinks it increased the intensity of the summer’s bushfires.
Labor’s climate change spokesman, Mark Butler, has accused Kotvojs of being a climate change skeptic, warning voters she will be part of the Liberal team that’s done nothing on climate change.
Nott shared Butler’s Facebook post, commenting: In a one-hour meeting with Dr. Kotvojs prior to last year’s federal election, I heard every excuse for inaction on climate change that I’ve ever heard. She has a more conservative position on climate than Tony Abbott.
Nott told Guardian Australia that at the meeting in the Bega, Kotvojs said the climate will always continue to change, which echoes similar comments she made to ABC South East in October 2018.
She went on to say that there were many forces controlling climate other than emissions, Nott said. She said that Australia’s contribution to global emissions was minute and therefore we shouldn’t look at anything economically damaging to reduce emissions.
Nott said Kotvojs had presented Australia’s emissions as a percentage of human and natural emission” to argue its contribution is even less than 1.3% of global emissions.
Nott accused Kotvojs of missing our point that renewable energy creates jobs in regional areas in areas like Eden Monaro and praised the New South Wales government and Liberal environment minister, Matt Kean, for embracing renewables.
In the religious freedom submission, Kotvojs and other signatories to a form submission told the review in 2018 that there should be no legal detriment to anyone who expresses the view that marriage is between one man and one woman.
They argued that religious schools should be allowed to positively discriminate in employment for people who adhere to their beliefs on marriage and parents should be able to withdraw their children from classes teaching radical LGBTIQ sex and gender theory.
Anna Brown, the chief executive of Equality Australia, said the people of Eden-Monaro voted resoundingly in favor of equality for LGBTIQ+ people in 2017, and the parliament explicitly rejected proposals to allow businesses to discriminate against same-sex couples.
We hope that Fiona Kotvojs’s position has evolved. Australia needs politicians to focus on rebuilding communities impacted by bushfires and coronavirus and ensuring that no one is left behind, including LGBTIQ+ people, she said.
Rodney Croome, the Just Equal spokesperson, said it is abhorrent that a major party candidate believes a commercial service should be allowed to discriminate on the ground of religion.
On Tuesday Kotvojs defended her position on climate change and the bushfire submission at a press conference alongside Scott Morrison but did not respond to written questions from Guardian Australia about Clean Energy for Eternity and her views on same-sex marriage.
I believe that the climate is changing and I believe humans are contributing to that change, she said.
In my experience where I live, the fires came through our farm, and we watched them coming at Cobargo into Dignams Creek, and the areas where hazard reduction had already occurred, the fire came through at lower intensity and much slower, it caused much less damage.
The area where the hazard reduction hadn’t occurred the fire was just so intense, it’s caused so much damage.
You look at the bush now and it just looks like an atomic bomb went off there, it’s terrible. The regeneration is slow, it’s still silent, the animals haven’t come back.
Kotvojs said “in the area where I live the key thing is hazard reduction” and the submission is about her experience in her area.
Asked if climate change impacted on the intensity, Kotvojs replied – I’m looking forward to the outcomes from the royal commission because that is looking at all of those reasons and I’m really pleased that the terms of reference specifically identified that the royal commission would look at the impact of climate change.
Asked for her personal view, she replied – I can speak about our area – because that’s where I was fighting the fires with the RFS, that’s where I was defending our home and our property.
I know what happened. I can’t speak about other places, I wasn’t there. But in our place, our farm, my community, the key thing that I could see was hazarded reduction.
According to the guardian On Wednesday, Kotvojs told ABC Riverina that as a Christian, I love everybody and I treat everybody with equality.
Kotvojs declined to explain her view on same-sex marriage or the proposed legalisation of discrimination against same-sex couples. I obey the law and treat everybody with equality, she said. The law is very clear.
Kotvojs has previously said that solar activity is the primary driver of climate change, that it’s a myth it increases cyclones and that the risk to Pacific nations is overstated because some, such as Tuvalu, have increased landmass.
Earlier in June, Kotvojs told Guardian Australia she stood by those statements. She also criticized native grassland laws, saying they contradict in various areas and that inconsistencies have a perverse effect in relation to the native grasslands and the environment.