Today's question for our federal candidates - Climate change, the carbon tax and coal seam gas activities are set to be key ‘‘green’’ issues for Illawarra residents. How will you tackle these?
Climate change, the carbon tax and coal seam gas activities are set to be key "green" issues for Illawarra residents fronting the polls at Saturday's election.
The region's voting population is likely to want answers as to how the major parties are going to tackle deepening concerns over the nation's carbon emissions, along with CSG drilling and global warming.
Anti-CSG proponents have long been active in the Illawarra and Southern Highlands, lodging petitions and door-knocking hundreds of residents about the potential dangers of CSG activities.
CSG exploration licences blanket most of the region and more applications have been lodged.
Four pilot wells were drilled and 16 exploration wells were granted development consent in the northern Illawarra before sustained community opposition delayed drilling approvals past their expiry dates.
In July, the NSW Planning Assessment Commission rejected Apex Energy's application for an extension to its project, citing a need for more conclusive findings on the impact of CSG activities on drinking water.
While CSG mining is, at present, largely a state issue, the Commonwealth can step in if there is a threat to the nation's water supply.
But opposition resources spokesman Ian Macfarlane reportedly came out this week saying domestic gas would be one of his top three priorities if the Coalition was elected, effectively backing plans to get the CSG industry moving.
Prime Minister Kevin Rudd has also been "championing" the CSG industry, never knocking back a CSG proposal, according to Australian Greens mining spokesperson Senator Larissa Waters.
At a state level, Labor recently announced plans to introduce a ban on CSG drilling near the state's drinking water catchment, putting pressure on the NSW government to follow suit.
The national price on carbon is also set to be a huge environmental issue for the region's voters.
Opposition Leader Tony Abbott has come out swinging with plans to "axe the carbon tax" and abolish Labor's price on carbon while Mr Rudd has discussed moves from a fixed to a floating carbon-pricing regime.
The Coalition says that greenhouse gas emissions are likely to fall by 5 per cent by 2020 under its $3.2 billion Direct Action plan, which will use soil and trees to soak up emissions.
Mr Abbott said Australia faced a cumulative loss of $1 trillion in gross domestic product between now and 2050 if the carbon pricing regime wasn't scrapped.
"Without a carbon tax, an economy that's 3 per cent bigger or $40 billion a year wealthier could much more readily afford the Gonski school changes and the National Disability Insurance Scheme," he said.
The Opposition Leader has also reiterated he does not think any companies will have to pay the Direct Action plan's in-built "penalty" for increasing emissions.
But Climate Change Minister Mark Butler says emissions data shows the penalty would raise as much as $350 million a year and could be passed on by business to consumers.
"Mr Abbott's climate plan is environmentally ineffective," Mr Butler said.
"It remains an expensive joke and a fraud on the Australian people."
The future of the nation's natural environment is a critical issue across the Illawarra as concerns about global warming, national parks and the plight of marine life and native species continue to rise.
National parks have become a hot political topic with the NSW government proposing grazing, shooting, tourism development and even logging in some parks.
Federal Labor says it is prepared to claim federal oversight of national parks if its wins, announcing plans to set up an expert review into the best way to expand federal powers over parks.
The Coalition wants a "one-stop shop" for environment approvals, effectively handing power to state governments.