The Nationals must stop trying to “sell fantasies” to regional Australians and play their part in restoring the country’s international standing at Cop26, according to Independent MPs determined to drive down the country’s emissions.
As the coalition remains divided about its position on a deal for net-zero by 2050 which the Prime Minister is hoping to take to Glasgow later this month, Independent MP Zali Steggall on Monday reintroduced the Climate Change Bill (National Framework for Adaptation and Mitigation) Bill 2021.
In a pointed message to the government, the Warringah MP said the time was “to pass the Bill, not the buck”.
As part of her proposition, Australia will have reached net zero emissions by December 31, 2050, while net emissions will be reduced by 60 per cent on 2005 levels by 2030.
Ms Steggall’s Bill also seeks to assess the risks of, and prepare for, climate change impacts; provide policy certainty to assist the private sector; establish a Climate Change commission; and ensure rural and regional Australia “secures and equitable share” of the economic benefits from the transition to a net-zero emissions economy.
Ms Steggall said the people of regional Australia deserved to know change was coming and their communities were being left vulnerable.
“The Prime Minister is desperate to do a deal with the Nationals, but that is meaningless without a strong target,” she said.
“We need to lock in ambitious targets and get a target into law … We will all benefit from the new opportunities of a renewable economy.
“We know two out of three coal jobs will disappear in the next two decades, whether the Nats like it or not. We have been warned.
“There is no point the Nationals selling (regional Australians) fantasies that these industries will be around forever where they won’t be. We must not protect fantasies, we must protect people and communities.”
The introduction of the Bill comes after the Nationals spent four hours attempting to reach a position on net-zero on Sunday, ahead of Scott Morrison’s trip to Glasgow at the end of the month.
Deputy Prime Minister and Nationals Leader Barnaby Joyce said the party would not rush the process.
“What we are being asked to sign is such a Titanic change to the trajectory of Australia that absolutely insists on due diligence,” he said.
“Four hours on a Sunday night to make a change that could be part of a process of redesigning the economy of Australia is not prudent.”
The reading of the Bill came after deputy Nationals leader David Littleproud said on Monday that the world was “still going to need coal” for decades to come.
“We are still going to be digging coal out of this country for another 30 or 40 years,” he told 2GB.
“Any transition away from coal fired power stations is going to take time.”
While the Nationals will meet again on Monday to further discuss their position, Mayo MP Rebecca Sharkie, who seconded the Bill, said Australia had a responsibility to be “leading the world” on climate change policy.
“We have the space, we have the sun, we have the wind,” she said.
“We see other nations that don’t have these natural resources at hand leading the way, and we are behind.”
As a minister with regional constituents, Ms Sharkie hit back at the Nationals claims that the regions would be left behind by a net-zero economy.
“My (electorate) is so interested in this space … about renewable energy,” she said.
Fellow regional MP, Indi’s Helen Haimes, said there were “thousands of good jobs” in renewable energy across Australia.
“We could grow thousands more if we were smart enough to capture (the opportunities),” Ms Haimes said.
“We are on the precipice of another gold rush. The government is seeking to keep us in the Bronze Age.
“Putting in place policies that cut emissions quickly is the best thing we could do to support the regions. This Bill will deliver for the regions.”
Speaking to the press on Monday, Opposition Leader Bill Shorten said that until net zero was legislated, Australia did not have a concrete plan to combat climate change.
“This is an issue about this generation, but also about future generations,” he said.
“It’s not just about our environment, it’s about economy and jobs.
“This is a government that’s frozen in time while the world warms.”
Debate on the Bill has been adjourned.