This is just nuts’: Malcolm Turnbull laments Australia’s climate ideology
Malcolm Turnbull has described climate change ideology in Australia as irrational and said Scott Morrison was not a “coal hugger” but faced a difficult task keeping the Coalition’s conservative faction on side.
The former Prime Minister said he was disappointed conservative politics had hijacked such the debate over climate change in Australia.
“This issue should be based on fact and risk assessment but has been turned particularly in Australia into an issue of politics, belief, values and almost religion,” Mr Turnbull told the National Smart Energy Summit in Sydney on Tuesday. “This is just nuts. There is no other way to describe it. It is so irrational that is what we’re grappling with and that has been the great challenge particularly on our side of politics.”
He described Scott Morrison as a big supporter of the dumped National Energy Guarantee – which ultimately led to Mr Turnbull’s own downfall – although suggested his ploy to hold up a piece of coal in parliament was unwise.
“I know he had that probably unwise appearance in the House of Representatives clutching a large lump of coal but Scott was a very, very strong supporter of the NEG as was Josh Frydenberg. It wasn’t just a thought bubble of mine,” Mr Turnbull said. “It’s easy to portray Morrison as a coal-hugger because of that picture in the House but I always found he was very objective about energy positions. But he is a highly pragmatic politician and obviously he is reacting to the very difficult reality of politics within the Coalition.”
Mr Turnbull also criticised the federal government over its plan to use Kyoto credits to meet its 2030 Paris emissions pledges.
Australia’s Coalition wants to use carbon credits carried over from the original Kyoto Protocol in 1997 to help meet its Paris emissions targets but the ploy has been described as creative accounting. The issue is under the spotlight at the current UN Convention on Climate Change in Spain.
The former leader said Kyoto credits should only be used to top up rather than do the heavy lifting on emissions targets.
“My concern about using them for nearly half the lifting is that then leads you in 2030 with an even bigger mountain to climb going into 2035 and 2040,” he told the conference. “2030 is not the end of the section. We all understand there will then be new levels of ambition called for so you’re really setting yourselves up for a super human effort post 2030.”
Mr Turnbull also slammed coal lobby groups in Australia for backing new plants being built despite them contributing to high energy costs and rising emissions.
“No one in their right mind would build a new coal fired power station today on the grounds of economics. The problem with the coal lobby today is that they are basically arguing for higher emissions and higher electricity prices. I can say to you that is an absolute loser.”
And the former Prime Minister also lamented the failure of federal governments to develop an emissions trading scheme back in 2007.
“In the 2007 election if you want to play some sort of fantasy football – and sliding door questions in politics – if John Howard had won the election we would have had an emissions trading scheme. It would now be about as controversial a part of our fiscal furniture as the GST. It’s worth contemplating that and the missed opportunities.”
Climate policies from ‘sensible centre’: Morrison
Scott Morrison has defended his climate change policies as being from the “sensible centre” after his predecessor Malcolm Turnbull lashed out at the government’s response.
The Prime Minister also launched an attack against Labor’s policies, saying he didn’t know what the party stood for after Labor leader Anthony Albanese backed coal exports on Monday before embarking on a tour of Queensland coal mining country.
“Our policy is sensible when it comes to addressing and taking action on climate change,” Mr Morrison said on Tuesday. “Our actions on climate change are getting the results they’re intended to get – reducing emissions and meeting our targets.
“The policies we’re pursuing capture that sensible centre, which understands our need to balance both meeting the needs of sustainability in our environment and ensuring that we meet the economic needs of our nation.”
Mr Morrison said the government rejected the 45 per cent emissions reduction target Labor took to the election because it was “economy wrecking”.
“We believe and are proving you can be responsible for emissions reduction and you can be responsible for managing the economy and the livelihoods that depend on that economy,” Mr Morrison said.
Mr Morrison said he thought Australians took some comfort in the “certainty and consistency” of the government’s views.
“I don’t know what the Labor Party thinks anymore, whether it’s on climate change or anything else,” he said. “They seem to just be saying things that people want to hear.”
A recent review of the May federal election found Labor’s ambiguous language around the Carmichael coal mine cost the party votes in regional Queensland and NSW’s Hunter coal region.