Australia

Former Liberal leader urges Wentworth voters to dump Coalition over climate inaction

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Former Liberal leader John Hewson has urged voters to turn on the Liberals in the up-coming Wentworth by-election over climate change, saying it may serve as a wake up call.

A former Liberal leader and Wentworth MP has urged voters to abandon the Liberals in the October 20 by-election over their "grossly irresponsible" inaction on climate change.

Dr John Hewson, who led the Liberal party from 1990 to 1994, said most Australians were disgusted the government had failed to show leadership on climate change. 

"It's irresponsible, it's grossly irresponsible - we have politicians playing short-term political games for short-term political gains when they should be delivering a decisive climate action plan," he told SBS News.

"It's a national disgrace."

Former member for Wentworth and former Liberal Party leader John Hewson talks with Bondi resident Frank Liebeskind as part of an anti-Adani protest.
Former member for Wentworth and former Liberal Party leader John Hewson talks with Bondi resident Frank Liebeskind as part of an anti-Adani protest.
AAP

The former Liberal MP for Wentworth stressed he was not endorsing or advocating for any particular candidate but said a political party without a policy on tackling climate change had lost the mandate to form a government.

"You lose the right to govern if you do not listen to the electorate on these issues," he said.

"This is why the electorate is pissed off."

Independent Kerryn Phelps looks poised to take out Malcolm Turnbull's former seat, based on the latest polling - resulting in a minority federal parliament.

Climate change is fast shaping up as a major issue for the crucial by-election, with an increased number of voters seemingly unhappy with the Coalition for dumping its National Energy Guarantee and then eventually the policy's champion, Mr Turnbull.

The Liberal government's return to the Tony Abbott-era Emissions Reduction Fund and an emphasis on coal-fired power plants was highlighted this week when Prime Minister Scott Morrison dismissed the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report, which called for a 50 per cent reduction in emissions by 2030.

The report warned a 1.5-2C increase in temperature was assured unless emissions were cut, resulting in extreme heat, drought, floods and poverty.

Kerryn Phelps is ahead in the polls for Wentworth.
Kerryn Phelps is ahead in the polls for Wentworth.
AAP

"(In) each one of these reports there’s more evidence and it’s firmer and firmer - you'd think someone would get up and say 'hang on, we should be listening'," Mr Hewson said.

“They think they can just leave it to 2029 but it requires a very large change in the way we do things.

"You cannot leave this to 2028 or 2029, it will simply not work."

It's not the first time Mr Hewson has taken his party to task over climate change.

Last month, he returned to parliament to present the "Climate of the Nation" research survey, saying he was disappointing the government had dumped the National Energy Guarantee and in 2011 he broke ranks with the Liberals and pledged support for an emissions trading scheme.

The race is on for Malcolm Turnbull's former seat.
The race is on for Malcolm Turnbull's former seat.
AAP

Liberal candidate for Wentworth Dave Sharma this week said his party was “doing enough” and has “a good record” on climate change.

The government needs to retain Wentworth at the October 20 by-election to hold onto its one-seat majority in parliament.

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Small business owners in the seat of Wentworth weigh in on by-election
Small business owners in the seat of Wentworth weigh in on by-election

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