‘Our word is our bond’: Senior MPs say exiting Paris deal would hurt Australia
28 August 2018 — 5:19pm
By Nicole Hasham & Peter Hannam
Senior government MPs warn Australia will lose face on the world stage if it exits the Paris climate treaty, amid an unyielding push by ultra-conservatives to maintain internal discord over climate and energy policy.
It comes as Labor-held states and territories express dismay in the appointment of anti-wind farm campaigner Angus Taylor as Energy Minister, and say the fate of the Coalition’s National Energy Guarantee is bleak.
Senior government MPs are resisting a push by conservatives to renege on the Paris climate deal.
Photo: Michele Mossop
Right-wing Coalition backbenchers have called for Australia to withdraw from the Paris agreement to cut global emissions.
However Prime Minister Scott Morrison is reportedly resisting such a move, which would threaten a potential free trade deal with Europe and may cost Liberal votes in metropolitan seats.
Scott Morrison brings coal into parliament
In her last press conference as foreign minister on Tuesday, former Liberal deputy Julie Bishop said Australia has “a very high standing as a nation that keeps its commitments” and should not quit the Paris deal.
Ms Bishop said the government in 2015 unanimously endorsed Australia’s contribution to the international agreement.
“When we sign a treaty, partners should be able to rely upon us,” she said.
Resources Minister Matt Canavan, a conservative Nationals senator who has described himself as “unashamedly pro-coal”, also called for Australia to stick with the landmark accord.
Former foreign minister Julie Bishop said the government unanimously endorsed Australia’s contribution to the Paris agreement.
Photo: Alex Ellinghausen
“I think we should meet our commitments … we are well regarded around the world [as a nation whose] word is our bond and if you go back on your word that has consequences,” he said.
Internal dissent from far right MPs over climate and energy policy forced former prime minister Malcolm Turnbull to drop emissions reduction from his signature National Energy Guarantee, and instead pledge to focus on lowering electricity prices and securing reliable supplies. The concession was not enough to placate his opponents and internal divisions over the policy ultimately triggered last week’s leadership spill.
Conservative MP Michael Sukkar, a key Dutton backer who has been banished to the backbench, on Tuesday refused to say whether Australia should remain in the Paris deal.
But he suggested conservative MPs would continue to agitate over energy policy under Mr Morrison’s leadership.
“[Mr Taylor is] a very close friend of mine and I’ll, in an appropriate way as a backbencher, make my views clear to him,” he said.
“We know that his knowledge, his background in the sector leaves him uniquely placed to find a solution to what of course has been a vexed policy issue.”
Mr Morrison has not indicated whether his government will seek to revive the beleaguered National Energy Guarantee, which needs agreement from the states. Mr Taylor was unavailable for comment.
But during a meeting of his new-look cabinet on Monday, Mr Morrison suggested the policy could be revamped.
“There will be continuity in our policy in this area, but there will also be new ideas in this area, to ensure that we get those prices down,” Mr Morrison said.
Labor climate change and energy spokesman Mark Butler condemned Mr Taylor’s appointment, describing the prominent wind farm critic and Rhodes scholar as an “anti-renewable energy ideologue” who “signals a return to hard-right ideology on energy policy by the government”.
Victorian Energy, Environment and Climate Change Minister Lily D’Ambrosio told Fairfax Media that Mr Taylor’s “record of denying the science of climate change is a low starting point for an energy minister”.
ACT Climate Change Minister Shane Rattenbury said Mr Taylor’s appointment was “cause for concern” because he was one of Australia’s most prominent anti-wind campaigners and his promotion had been lauded by pro-coal government forces.
Mr Rattenbury said the government’s backflip on the emissions component of the energy plan meant government had “killed their own policy”.
While a future iteration of the plan might include reliability measures, legislation currently out for consultation would presumably need to be redrafted to remove emissions reduction components and “it remains to be seen how this will be done, and if it will work,” he said.
Press link for more: SMH