Federal Election: Nationals accused of forcing Coalition into lack of climate action

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·News Reporter
·4-min read
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The Coalition continues to get hammered on climate change in the lead-up to the Federal Election, so why is public outcry for stronger action on the issue not leading to more action?

With the Australian National University finding in a survey last year that around 80 per cent of Australians want urgent action on climate change, the tide of disapproval with the Coalition repeatedly working against meaningful climate change legislation in parliament looks likely to have an effect come polling day.

This fact has not been lost on the string of independents looking to take over government seats.

Climate protesters gather in front of Sydney Harbour
Around 80 per cent of Australians want firmer action on climate change but the federal government isn't listening, according to independent candidates running in Coalition-held seats. Source: Getty

Local members fall in line with party on climate policy

Independent candidate for North Sydney Kylea Tink says local member Trent Zimmerman has talked strong on climate change but repeatedly failed to deliver in parliament, falling in line with the right-leaning National party, led by deputy PM Barnaby Joyce, at voting time.

Ms Tink said Mr Zimmerman and the Coalition have repeatedly voted against legislation designed to address climate change and locals are angry.

Warren Entsch (right) speaks with Christopher Pyne (centre) as Trent Zimmerman listens (right) with Tim Wilson (foreground) in parliament
Member for North Sydney Trent Zimmerman (right) has consistently voted against his electorate's wishes on climate change, as has all of the Coalition. Source: Getty

“In Trent Zimmerman we have someone who, when he speaks to us as an electorate, we hear the things that we want to hear according to his moderate stance. But when it comes to his voting record, the majority of the time he has voted with Barnaby Joyce,” Ms Tink said

“He’s always voted against legislation that ensures the federal government addresses the real and present threat of climate change. Trent voted against the federal government funding and maintaining the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) as an independent body. When he was asked to explain why he did that it was very difficult to work out, other than he was having to tow the party line.

“He voted against the Future Drought Fund Bill in 2019 that called on the government to recognise that we’re in the middle of a climate crisis. Trent was also on the parliamentary committee that rejected Zali Steggall’s climate bill, which sought to establish an independent climate change commission to manage emissions reduction targets and legislative targets for reaching net zero carbon emissions by 2050.”

“They’re three very specific examples of what he’s spoken to the electorate about as being priorities that have not been translated into actual physical votes when it’s come to the floor of the House.”

Liberal party a 'minority' within Coalition

The government confirmed in the March budget that funding to its key climate change agencies, the Clean Energy Finance Corporation (CEFC) and the Australian Renewable Energy (ARENA), will reduce by 35 per cent over the next four years.

Ms Tink believes that the real power in the Coalition comes not from its leader, but from the party claiming to be the junior member.

“The fact of the matter is the Liberal party is already in a minority government position. Their legislative reform can’t go any further that what the National party allows them to,” she said.

“So they’re essentially bound by the minority party to follow whatever legislative reform they want. The minority party in that coalition is in fact setting the climate target and directions for our country as a whole.”

Deputy Prime Minister of Australia Barnaby Joyce in the House of Representatives chamber at Parliament House
Independent candidate for North Sydney Kylea Tink said Barnaby Joyce and the National party are setting the climate agenda in Australia by forcing other Coalition members to vote against climate action. Source: Getty

Liberal centre 'out in the wilderness'

Independent candidate for Goldstein Zoe Daniel also highlighted local member Tim Wilson’s tendency to fall in line with the National Party’s direction on climate change, saying Liberal voters in the electorate feel “left in the wilderness”.

“Tim Wilson has never crossed the floor. He votes the way the National party and Barnaby Joyce votes because that’s the way the party members are told to vote,” Ms Daniel said.

“It’s more of an ethos in the Coalition where the National Party has control over the [renewable energy] targets. That was self-evident in the lead-up to COP26.

“With the drift of the party to the more conservative side, those who sit in the centre don’t feel represented. They don’t feel that they would vote Labor, but they don’t feel supported by the Coalition so they’re kind of in the wilderness. I sit in the centre so I am that person too.”

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