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Wanted: A liberal dose of climate action

  • 09 June 2022
  The Liberal wipeout in inner-city electorates is without precedent in Australian politics. For the Liberal Party, ‘existential crisis’ is not an overstatement. As the party founded by Robert Menzies finds itself in the hall of mirrors, climate policy should be a major focus of critical self-appraisal.

This was a mass extinction event that left the Coalition’s climate dinosaurs largely unscathed, instead taking out multiple actual or purported Liberal ‘moderates’. It’s not hard to see why. Climate regularly polls as a top concern in their former seats. The ‘teal’ independents, Labor and the Greens all identified climate as a key point of difference with Liberal incumbents.

Climate was not the only issue in this election. But in many of the urban seats the Liberals lost, it was a determining factor. For many, the national trauma of the bushfires brought the climate emergency home to Australia. International reports released just before the election campaign and during it underscored the inadequacy of our collective response to this growing threat.

The evidence of this deepening crisis placed the Coalition’s climate record in withering perspective. Overall, the Morrison government acted as a handbrake on climate action. By and large it did not seize the extraordinary opportunities Australia has to prosper in the net-zero economy.

In the face of this, many voters patronisingly dismissed as ‘doctor’s wives’ or the ‘shrieking classes’ decided enough was enough from this government and reached for the ejector button in once-safe Liberal seats.

People hadn’t forgotten the crass vaudeville of senior ministers cradling and passing around a lump of coal on the front bench of Parliament (had anyone forgotten, ‘teal’ advertising was on hand to remind them). What these MPs missed was that people in formerly bedrock Liberal seats want climate policy treated with the deadly seriousness it deserves, not used as the punchline for cheap sideshow stunts.

'The Liberals can learn from this election and do the hard work necessary – on climate and other key policy priorities – to appeal again to the communities that founded the Liberal Party, sustained it for decades and have now rejected it.'

These voters proved unwilling to be fobbed off with risible three-word slogans like ‘technology not taxes’ or with a ‘technology roadmap’ to net-zero that experts and stakeholders declared flimsy. Especially when Coalition colleagues loudly declared that the net-zero target is ‘dead’ or comes with ‘wiggle room’.

They were unimpressed that Australia was one of the few major economies that