Blog | 15th Sep, 2015

A new turn? What Prime Minister Turnbull could mean for our environment

Malcolm Turnbull on climate change in 2012: “Politicians and shock jocks, scientists and coal barons, all of them can argue for as long as they like, but they cannot change the physical reality.”

It’s a new day, and Australia has a new Prime Minister. And that means the federal Coalition has a chance to push ‘reset’ on the environment and climate change, and reject the ideological attacks on the environment launched by Tony Abbott’s government.

Malcom Turnbull visits Tesal Factory

We’ve been here before. In Victoria two years ago Premier Baillieu was dumped and Denis Napthine installed as Premier. The government was seen as out of touch with progressive Victorian attitudes. The Victorian Liberals also had the chance to stop their attacks on the environment and renewable energy. But they chose not to, and it hurt them at the ballot box.

The thing is Australians in general, and Victorians in particular, don’t like extreme ideological attacks on our environment. They love renewable energy and they love our places of beauty that were protected by groups of people who care about our environment.

In June this year Environment Victoria’s Campaigns Director Nick Roberts and I met with Malcolm Turnbull. We highlighted the need for the federal Coalition to have a credible climate policy that worked to retire our dirtiest power stations like Hazelwood. We pointed out that $10 billion of taxpayers’ money each year was subsidising the burning of dirty fossil fuels, increasing global warming. We reminded him that the Murray-Darling Basin Plan, which he started, was now unravelling. We had a good hearing, and Mr Turnbull was engaged and thoughtful.

We are hopeful that we will now see the federal Coalition develop a positive agenda on environmental protection. Key priorities for Prime Minister Turnbull should include:

  • switching from attacking renewable energy to strongly supporting it
  • re-joining the world in putting a price on carbon pollution
  • getting the $13 billion Murray-Darling Basin Plan back on track by buying more water to return rivers to health
  • stopping the attacks on community environmental organisations initiated by Tony Abbott’s government.

We are under no illusions that these necessary changes in policy will happen overnight, or that we can relax for a moment. We’ll continue building our grassroots power in the seats that will determine the outcome of the 2016 federal election, working to ensure that thousands of undecided voters use their vote for the environment. We’ll work with any politician and any political party that has credible environmental policies. And we’ll call out any that don’t.

For this morning, though, we’re optimistic that Australia now has the chance to develop the responsible environmental and climate restoration agenda we so urgently need. We hope Mr Turnbull sticks to the sentiment he expressed in 2012 – that the physical reality of climate change cannot be ignored or denied.