Remember when Tony Abbott pledged, upon losing a leadership spill to Malcolm Turnbull, that he’d make the leadership change as easy as possible with “no wrecking, no undermining, [and] no sniping”?
Last night on ABC’s 7.30 Leigh Sales played a clip reminding the former prime minister of his promise. Abbott responded that there has been “none of that” from his end.
But you wouldn’t think that when looking at his position on the National Energy Guarantee (NEG), or anything he’d done in recent years to address this issue.
Abbott claims the Coalition’s own NEG is poor policy because it’s focus is on “reducing emissions” and not about “reducing price”. He says his own party has an “obsession” with emissions and that he wants to see Australia “get out of” the Paris agreement, which was signed during his own government.
Indeed, it seems Abbott will say anything to avoid any kind of solution the Turnbull Government offers up on energy.
“Carbon dioxide is not pollution, carbon dioxide is a naturally occurring trace gas,” he told Sydney radio station 2GB yesterday. “It’s not pollution, we need it for life.” (Yes, that during National Science Week.)
He told Ray Hadley the NEG is “seriously bad policy”, “dodgy” and a “dangerous” move, which will see the “country being dictated to” and “surrendering” to Paris. He added that, “modelling which the government has released I think is entirely fanciful.”
Strong words for a policy that’s widely supported by his party.
Meanwhile, Energy Minister Josh Frydenberg claims the NEG will cut prices, while boosting the reliability of supply and cutting emissions. It has the support of some of the most powerful groups in the country, including farmers, miners, the Clean Energy Council, the Business Council of Australia and the Council Social Services.
Last night Abbott added that our “massively increased renewables” had resulted in a doubling of prices, along with blackouts and routine rationing. “We’re going to get more of the same,” he said, should we further increase renewables.
When asked by Leigh Sales if “everyone else has got it wrong” considering how many groups support the NEG, Abbott said they’re just trying to be “polite” to the government, because they know Labor’s plan will be even worse.
Abbott’s continued stance on renewable energy and climate change is out of touch with the people of the electorate he serves, Warringah, in Sydney’s north. A July 2018 ReachTEL poll of 615 people in the area found 59% want Australia to stay in the Paris Agreement, and just 24% want Australia to commit to a lower emissions reduction target than the current 26-28%.
It’s increasingly looking like a losing battle for Abbott — who currently has few on his side other than Barnaby Joyce. A Cabinet briefing last night saw the Turnbull Government’s backbench committee endorse the NEG plan.
Wrecking and undermining your own party’s policy is one thing, and nothing we haven’t seen before. But aiming to wreck and undermine an international commitment Australia made on reducing emissions is another; and a particularly low act if your real motivations are about something else.