Tony Ab­bott needs to ex­plain U-turn on cli­mate change, Julie Bishop says

The Guardian Australia - - Front Page - Paul Karp

State­ments by Tony Ab­bott sug­gest­ing that cli­mate change is “prob­a­bly do­ing good” are dif­fer­ent to his opinion while he was prime min­is­ter and it is up to him to ex­plain why he has changed his view, Julie Bishop has said.

Speak­ing from South Korea on the ABC’s 7:30 on Thursday, the for­eign af­fairs min­is­ter re­buked Ab­bott by re­count­ing his record of sign­ing the Paris cli­mate agree­ment and set­ting the re­new­able en­ergy tar­get.

Bishop’s com­ments fol­low a sim­i­lar in­ter­ven­tion from en­ergy and en­vi­ron­ment min­is­ter, Josh Fry­den­berg, stat­ing that cli­mate change is real and re­call­ing that Ab­bott signed the Paris agree­ment.

On Mon­day even­ing Ab­bott told a cli­mate scep­tic think­tank in Lon­don that poli­cies to com­bat cli­mate change were like “prim­i­tive peo­ple ... killing goats to ap­pease the vol­cano gods”. He also reprised his 2009 as­ser­tion that the “so-called set­tled science of cli­mate change” was “ab­so­lute crap”.

Asked about Ab­bott’s com­ments, Bishop said he was “en­ti­tled to ex­press his views, as any other mem­ber of par­lia­ment ... is en­ti­tled to do”.

But she added: “The views he ex­pressed re­cently are dif­fer­ent to those he ex­pressed as prime min­is­ter when he sup­ported the Paris agree­ment, and in fact set a na­tion­ally de­ter­mined tar­gets and the re­new­able en­ergy tar­get was es­tab­lished un­der then Prime Min­is­ter Ab­bott,” she said. “So, it’s up to him to ex­plain the dif­fer­ences be­tween his opinion then and his opinion now.”

Bishop said the Turn­bull gov­ern­ment was de­ter­mined to de­liver “af­ford­able, re­li­able en­ergy ... that will still meet our in­ter­na­tional obli­ga­tions, which were, in fact, es­tab­lished un­der then Prime Min­is­ter Ab­bott”.

Asked why Ab­bott was not ex­pelled for “con­stant breaches of dis­ci­pline”, Bishop noted that he was dis­cussing an is­sue that was “con­tro­ver­sial” in some sec­tors of the com­mu­nity.

Bishop suggested the rea­son there was “a deal of in­ter­est in what he has to say” is that he had changed his mind from his view as prime min­is­ter. “I think the ques­tion that has to be asked of Tony Ab­bott is why does he have a dif­fer­ent view now than when he was prime min­is­ter?”

With the gov­ern­ment back­ing off the clean en­ergy tar­get rec­om­mended by the chief sci­en­tist, it is un­clear what mix­ture of cli­mate poli­cies it will pro­pose to meet in­ter­na­tional obli­ga­tions.

Bishop said the Turn­bull gov­ern­ment’s en­ergy pol­icy “will be dis­cussed by cab­i­net and by the party room and then of course an­nounced to the Aus­tralian pub­lic”.

The gov­ern­ment could un­veil its en­ergy pol­icy as soon as next week, when par­lia­ment re­sumes for the fi­nal spring ses­sion.

The ex­pected over­haul of the mar­ket rules in the gov­ern­ment’s loom­ing en­ergy pol­icy over­haul is ex­pected to be ac­com­pa­nied by mech­a­nisms to re­duce green­house gas emis­sions, in­clud­ing the use of in­ter­na­tional per­mits, which the gov­ern­ment first sig­nalled when it launched a re­view of its Di­rect Ac­tion pol­icy.

The en­ergy sec­tor also ex­pects the ex­ist­ing Emis­sions Re­duc­tion Fund, which is the Coali­tion’s vol­un­tary scheme that gives in­cen­tives for farm­ers and land­hold­ers to re­duce emis­sions, will also have its fund­ing topped up be­tween now and the next elec­tion.

Ab­bott’s speech was la­belled “loopy” by La­bor’s deputy leader, Tanya Plibersek, but de­fended in part by Lib­eral MP Craig Kelly, the chair­man of the back­bench com­mit­tee on cli­mate and en­ergy.

Pho­to­graph: Lukas Coch/AAP

Julie Bishop and Tony Ab­bott on the front­bench dur­ing his time as prime min­is­ter. Bishop has said Ab­bott needs to ex­plain his change of heart on global warm­ing.

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