Outspoken MP defies party leader

Tasmanian Liberal MP Bridget Archer has split with the Coalition’s position on emission targets. Picture: NewsWire / Martin Ollman

Liberal backbencher Bridget Archer has split with her party and its leader Peter Dutton over the Coalition’s plan to scrap Labor’s 2030 emissions reduction target.

On Saturday, Mr Dutton revealed the Coalition would abandon the Albanese government’s legally binding commitment to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to 43 per cent below 2005 levels by 2030, arguing Australia would fail to meet the target that is largely reliant on the decarbonisation of the national energy grid.

Amid uncertainty over the Coalition’s position, Mr Dutton clarified on Tuesday that the opposition remained committed to a 2030 target that it would set following the next federal election if it formed government.

“We’ll look at the prevailing economic conditions after the next election and we’ll make announcements in due course,” Mr Dutton said.

Outspoken Liberal moderate Bridget Archer said a move to water down Australia’s climate targets would be a ‘regressive step’. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Martin Ollman

But on Wednesday, Ms Archer, an outspoken Liberal moderate from Tasmania who has previously agitated for stronger action on climate change, said the Coalition should be clear with voters about what its climate targets were prior to the next federal poll.

“The current targets are already legislated. They are the targets,” she told the ABC.

“If we were planning to change that I think it would be reasonable to put it to the Australian people at an election.

“Of course, I also think it would be a regressive step.”

Labor’s 43 per cent emissions reduction target is a commitment under the 2015 Paris Agreement, a legally binding international treaty with an overarching goal to hold “the increase in the global average temperature to well below 2C above pre-industrial levels”.

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese took aim at the Coalition’s climate policy. Picture: NewsWire / Martin Ollman

Official projections released in November by the Climate Change Authority showed Labor was within striking distance of achieving its interim target, with Australia forecast to slash greenhouse gas emissions by 42 per cent by the end of the decade.

Alongside the other 195 signatories to the Paris Agreement, Australia cannot renege or weaken its previous emission reduction commitments, meaning a move by the Coalition to dump or reduce the 2030 target would constitute a breach of the agreement.

Ms Archer is not the first Coalition backbencher to break ranks with the Opposition Leader. Earlier this week, Mr Dutton’s shadow cabinet colleague Barnaby Joyce and Nationals backbencher Keith Pitt agitated for the Coalition to abandon the Paris Agreement altogether.

On Wednesday, Mr Dutton further detailed the motivations behind the Coalition’s policy, arguing that he wouldn’t sign up to a target that would add further pressures to households and businesses.

Opposition Leader Peter Dutton says he has a better plan. Picture: NewsWire / John Appleyard

“I’m not going to sign up to an arrangement that destroys our economy and sends families and small businesses into bankruptcy. I’m just not going to do that,” Mr Dutton told reporters in Sydney.

“I lived through the 1991 (recession) … Australian families are struggling under this government at the moment and I think we have a better way forward and we’re laying that plan out to the public.”

Also speaking in Sydney, Prime Minister Anthony Albanese ramped up his criticism of Mr Dutton’s position, claiming the Opposition Leader was more opposed to action on climate change than his predecessor, Scott Morrison.

“This is an extraordinary failure of leadership from Peter Dutton. It shows he’s not up to the job of being the alternative prime minister of this country,” the Prime Minister said.

Mr Albanese added that further revisions to Australia’s near-term climate targets would undermine much-needed investment to decarbonise the Australian economy.

“We need to seize the opportunities which are there for new jobs created with new investment, particularly in our regions,” he said.

“Peter Dutton wants to scare that investment away and wants Australia to fail.”