Not even being on track for a minority government will force the coalition into a shift in thinking on climate change, Treasurer Josh Frydenberg has confirmed.
Independent Kerryn Phelps is headed for victory in the Wentworth by-election after a historic swing of more than 20 per cent against the Liberal Party.
The expected result will see the coalition with 75 seats in the House of Representatives – one short of a majority – with Labor holding 69.
The Australia Institute’s exit polling shows climate change and replacing coal with renewable energy was the biggest issue motivating voters in Wentworth.
The research shows 77 per cent of voters said it influenced their vote, with one-third stating it was the most important issue when heading to the polling booth on Saturday.
While Mr Frydenberg conceded climate change was important to the people of Wentworth, he believed other issues were at play.
He said the predicted defeat for candidate Dave Sharma was more about the Liberal Party’s ditching of former prime minister Malcolm Turnbull, who had been the local member since 2004.
‘The message from the voters of Wentworth is you’ve been punished for the events of recent weeks with the leadership,’ Mr Frydenberg told Sky News on Sunday.
Mr Frydenberg went on to tell reporters on Sunday the government was on track to meet emissions targets.
‘What we will not do is increase people’s power bills as a result of these policies,’ Mr Frydenberg said.
‘That is very different to Bill Shorten. He has a 50 per cent renewable energy target and a 45 per cent emissions reduction target. That spells higher power bills for Australians.’
Dr Phelps said the public was tired of the government’s ‘self-interest’ and important issues must be kept on the agenda.
‘They want to start to see some movement on action on climate change,’ Dr Phelps said.
Senior Labor MP Tony Burke said former prime minister Tony Abbott was still in charge of the coalition’s policies.
‘The hard-right agenda has made this government incapable of dealing with issues like climate change and people have had enough of it,’ Mr Burke told ABC TV on Sunday.
Centre Alliance’s Rebekha Sharkie said the message from the public on climate change was clear.
‘A couple of critical issues in the Wentworth by-election and people raise with me every day in Mayo is ensuring we have climate change action in the parliament,’ Ms Sharkie told ABC TV on Sunday.