House debates

Thursday, 9 March 2023

Matters of Public Importance


4:06 pm

Photo of Andrew CharltonAndrew Charlton (Parramatta, Australian Labor Party) Share this | Hansard source

Governments around the world are dealing with higher power prices. Australian is not immune. We're dealing with higher energy prices as well. It's painful and it's tough on the family budget. In this circumstance, Australians want two things: first of all, they want action; secondly, they want honesty. Unfortunately, they didn't get any of those things from those opposite when they were in government. They didn't get action—instead they had four gigawatts of generation leave the system and only one gigawatt come back in. They certainly didn't get honesty. The previous government hid the information that energy prices were set to rise.

We have had decades of denial and delay from this side, across four Liberal leaders. Leader number one, Tony Abbott, said that the science of climate change was 'crap' and that climate change was 'probably doing good'. That was Tony Abbott's hot take on climate change. He had a few corkers. The second leader, Malcolm Turnbull, described Liberal policy as 'an environmental fig leaf to cover a determination to do nothing'—that's what he said about his own party. In 2009 he said that his fellow members of the Liberal Party 'do not believe in human-caused global warming'. After he left politics, Turnbull said that his biggest regret—and it was a long list, I assume—was a failure to secure meaningful climate policy. Who did he blame for this regret? He didn't blame Labor or business or any stakeholders. He certainly didn't blame himself, characteristically. He blamed his own party.

Then, we had Scott Morrison, the member for Cook, who brought a lump of coal into the parliament. He said the coalition's policy was for coal power stations 'to run as long as they possibly can'.

A government member: It wasn't even a decent sized piece of coal.

Thank you for that important interjection. He stood up in front of the world at COP26 and claimed that the government was acting on climate change the Australian way—which in his world meant doing nothing. What he meant was, 'the Australian government way' at that time. Leader number four is Peter Dutton, who thought that the devastation of rising sea levels in the Pacific was a joke. He joked about the risks of climate change for our important neighbours in the Pacific. This shows decades of disgraceful denial and disgraceful delay. They had 22 different climate change policies, and they didn't deliver one of them.

The saddest thing about this chaos is that it has left them so isolated. The Liberal Party like to think of themselves as the party of business—they think that's their natural constituency. But on this issue, businesses are leaving the Liberals in the rear-view mirror. On this issue, businesses are acting. They are putting in place targets to get to net zero. They are putting in place concrete plans. They are putting in place renewable energy. What they need is certainty. What they are crying out for is certainty. They have been waiting for decades for certainty, but it has not come from the so-called party of business.

In fact, the Liberal's climate policy is kryptonite for their core constituency. Businesses are walking away from them on climate, just like they're walking away from them on the Voice and just like they are walking away from them on fairness and gender equity. It is sad to see the Liberal Party, the party that thinks of itself as the voice of business, to be so distant from business. It must be embarrassing for the Liberals to see that their own constituency is so far out ahead of them, leaving them behind in its wake. If the coalition don't understand business's position on climate, if they don't understand the position of conservation groups and they aren't in touch with mainstream Australia, who is their climate policy for?

By contrast, we have taken strong action. We have been working with the states and territories on the delivery of the energy bill relief package; we have been taking action to limit coal and gas prices; we have been taking action to increase renewables in the grid; and we've been taking action to ensure that we get a sensible target that can be delivered in a way that will support jobs, support growth and support Australian industry.


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