CANBERRA, AAP – Malcolm Turnbull says the federal Liberals are still acting like “terrorists” on climate policy and Labor lacks ambition but is being politically sensible.
The inability of the federal government to be more ambitious is a fundamental problem for Australia, the former prime minister told an industry forum on Tuesday.
“The obstacles to a clean energy transition in Australia are not physical, they’re not economic, they’re not technological, they’re entirely political.”
He said the climate wars began when Tony Abbott became Liberal leader in 2009 and “it’s been crazy ever since”.
“The fundamental dysfunction in the Coalition now is that the right operate like terrorists, not using bombs and guns, but in the sense that their proposition is that unless you do what we want we’ll blow the joint up.”
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“Your base is actually walking away,” he warned.
Representing energy minister Angus Taylor, Assistant Minister for Industry, Energy and Emissions Reduction Tim Wilson said Australia has moved on from “wrong-headed” discussions around targets to supporting industry and investment.
Mr Wilson said federal Labor is now closer to the Liberal position on climate and energy policy than ever before.
“We’re all broadly swimming in the same direction,” he told the Clean Energy Council webinar.
“It’s always been about what’s the cost, what’s the technology and who’s going to pay.”
But the peak body is concerned the transition is too slow and on Tuesday released a policy road map aimed at driving immediate investment and forcing an election focus on energy.
Labor climate and energy spokesman Chris Bowen said climate change has been a key issue in every federal election since 2007 and will be again, despite wariness in some sectors of the community.
“There’s a lot of cynicism and people willing to mislead,” he said.
“We’ve had 20 years of stop-start and policy denial and inaction.”
If Labor is elected, state and territory energy ministers would become part of a national effort instead of filling a void, Mr Bowen said.
“They’re crying out for a national framework, they’re crying out for leadership.”
Labor’s election pledge is to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 43 per cent by 2030 from 2005 levels, while the Morrison government’s target is a cut of 26-28 per cent.
Mr Turnbull said Labor’s policy lacks ambition but is “politically sensible”.
Greens Leader Adam Bandt said both major parties plan to expand coal and gas developments and have targets that won’t help limit global warming to below two degrees.
But he gave a tick to Labor’s plan to invest in the electricity grid to connect more renewable energy.
Independent MP Helen Haines announced she will introduce a bill next week to bring in federal subsidies for home energy storage batteries that can cost as much as $15,000.
Some 30 per cent of Australians have roof-top solar but only 1 per cent have batteries.
She said subsidised batteries would provide energy security for Australians who live on the edge of the grid, keep people connected after natural disasters, and lead to local manufacturing of the equipment.
Clean Energy Council head Kane Thornton said an electricity grid powered by 100 per cent renewable energy by 2030 would deliver emissions reductions just below the global average of 45 per cent.
“It’s not an ambitious or difficult target – it’s the low-hanging fruit.”
Mr Turnbull said if Labor were to win the federal election, he expects to see a big shift in Liberal policy because voters feel a party dominated by the right no longer speaks for them.