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Australia's bushfire survivors speak out ahead of vote

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STORY: It's been two years since Australia's deadly Black Summer fires ripped through its southeast coast.

School teacher Samantha Kneeshaw remembers the experience vividly, as she took refuge in her swimming pool, sucking on air from a scuba tank, as flames blazed overhead.

Now, regrowth has sprung from the charred tree trunks but government inaction on climate change has left her frustrated ahead of the general election.

“I was so angry. I'm still angry that we still keep talking about this. I cannot fathom this government getting back in again and not doing anything because Australia is so crucial to this climate debate.”

Wary of alienating voters on either side, Prime Minister Scott Morrison and opposition leader Anthony Albanese have been treading carefully when it comes to talk about weaning the nation off fossil fuels.

The Coalition government's 2030 emission reduction target of 26% and the Labor Opposition's target of 43%

both fall short of meeting the 50% aim that the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change said is needed to keep global warming under two degrees.

Debate about climate change has long been fraught in Australia, among the world’s largest exporters of coal and natural gas.

A former resident evacuated from Lake Conjola during the fires, who gave his name as Barry, said jobs and cost of living over climate change were his top concerns when filling out the ballot this weekend:

"I think it’s a climate change election in that I want to vote for the government that’s going to do the least. Because closing coal-fired power stations for instance is going to cost jobs. It’s going to mean we’ll have more blackouts and the cost of living will go up.”

In a poll published last May, the Lowy Institute found that concern over climate change has increased, with 60% of Australians agreeing that "global warming is a serious and pressing problem."

Retired Major General and Canberra’s former Emergency Services Chief Peter Dunn has actively called on Australian governments, past and present, to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. He was also one of the members who warned Scott Morrison of the impending Black Summer bushfires.

“So instead of taking a measured and planned set of responses to adapt to climate change, we now can’t even use the word 'adapt' because we’ve got to take urgent defensive action. Because the time has just become so short. No one wants to face that reality. It is the big moral issue that we’re facing of our time.”

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