New South Wales Liberal Party candidate for Swansea Megan Anderson has downplayed a comment she made last week denying climate change, calling it a “clumsy joke”.
With state elections less than two weeks away, Guardian Australia has seen footage of a community event about Hunter’s offshore wind farms, at which Anderson remarked to a person next to her: “I don’t believe in climate change”.
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When contacted by Guardian Australia about the comment, she said it was not a statement of her beliefs.
“I made a clumsy joke in response to the previous speaker, but that was not a statement of my belief,” Anderson said.
“I understand our climate is changing and the NSW Government has great policies in place to preserve our environment for future generations, which I support.”
The comments come after it was revealed that Nationals candidate for Port Macquarie, local mayor Peta Pinson, said at a meeting that her skepticism about climate science had “solidified” after reading a newspaper. She is running for one of only two seats contested by both a Liberal and a national candidate.
National candidates must submit a detailed form when applying to run for the party, including details of their support for the party’s policies, but the party encompasses a “broad church,” a senior official said.
Pinson’s comments were deemed acceptable within this framework.
Anderson made her comment March 7 as she sat at a table with residents in Doyalson and asked questions about the offshore Pacific Ocean wind zone off the Hunter.
The consultation for the proposed renewable energy project, which the federal government claims could help decarbonize the area and create up to 8,000 jobs, opened earlier this year and has included a series of community discussions.
Anderson recently joined the Liberal Party and was shortlisted for the almost unwinnable seat at the end of February. Labour’s Yasmin Catley held the Hunter region’s electorate by a 10% margin in the 2019 general election.
Opposition spokeswoman Penny Sharpe said the coalition must ensure all candidates are on the same page on climate change.
“Climate change is no joke,” she said.
“Mr Perrottet and Mr Toole must guarantee all Liberal and National candidates that they are taking meaningful action on climate change.”
So-called blue-green independent candidates running for key Liberal seats have pushed hard for climate action. Last week, key hopefuls joined kingmaker, Sydney Independent MP Alex Greenwich, to come up with a wish list to be used should the NSW election result lead to a hanging parliament.
The Liberal Party has defended its climate position.
“The NSW Government has an excellent track record of delivering investment in renewable energy, ensuring energy security and tackling climate change,” said a spokesman for the NSW Liberals
“The Perrottet government’s long-term plan addresses the challenges our state faces, including our net-zero programs and policies, which will help support industry to decarbonize while boosting jobs and economic growth, and ensure the delivery of reliable and affordable energy.”