Zali Steggall wants conscience vote to end 'climate wars'

Zali Steggall wants MPs to be given a conscience vote on her climate change bill.

Independent Member for Warringah Zali Steggall at Parliament House in Canberra.

Independent Member for Warringah Zali Steggall at Parliament House in Canberra. Source: AAP

Zali Steggall has called for a conscience vote to end the “climate wars” as she unveiled her private member's bill aimed at bridging political divides on climate policy.

The independent Warringah MP, who toppled Tony Abbott at the May federal election, wants MPs to set aside party politics when they consider her proposed legislation to create a national framework to deal with climate change.

“We have to get real about the challenges ahead and come up with a plan,” Ms Steggall told reporters in Canberra.

“Every MP should stand up and show their colours and tell us where they stand.”

Joined by fellow crossbenchers Rebekha Sharkie, Helen Haines and Andrew Wilkie, Ms Steggall released her private members bill on Monday before she plans to introduce it to Parliament next month. 

Independent Helen Haines, Centre Alliance member for Mayo Rebekha Sharkie, Independent Zali Steggall, and Independent Andrew Wilkie.
Source: AAP

The bill is modelled on the United Kingdom’s Climate Change Act, which helps guide government decisions on national energy and industry policy, with similar legislation also adopted in New Zealand and Ireland.

The framework outlines steps towards the establishment of an independent Climate Change Commission to advise the federal government, and national plans for reducing emissions and adapting to climate change.

The former Olympian said the “climate wars” must be put to rest so the nation can move forward with a new decade of action.

The crossbench has begun an online campaign calling on voters to pressure their MPs to vote on the bill according to their conscience, rather than along party lines. 

Independent Helen Haines, Centre Alliance's Rebekha Sharkie and Independent Zali Steggall at Parliament House in Canberra.
Source: AAP

Without a conscience vote, it would almost certainly fail to get the numbers in Parliament.

Ms Steggall is hopeful of convincing some Liberal MPs to back the bill. 

“This is conservative policy in the UK - there is nothing here that the government can’t adopt,” she said.

We haven’t just had the bushfires ... you have had droughts in regional Australia, you have air pollution standards that are appalling.

"Now is the time for a rational approach to climate change."

The legislation also pushes for a long-term national target of net-zero emissions by 2050, which would be reviewed every five years by the independent Climate Change Commission.

Energy Minister Angus Taylor has said Australia expects to deliver a “long-term” emissions reduction strategy before the Glasgow summit of COP26 later this year.

But so far the government has only committed to reducing emissions by 26 per cent to 28 per cent on 2005 levels by 2030.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has previously said the government's policy on climate would "evolve" in the wake of the bushfire crisis.

The release of Ms Steggall's bill comes as debate about coal fuels division within the Coalition, with some pushing for a greater focus on coal, while moderate Liberals want stronger action on climate change. 

Liberal MP David Sharma told reporters the government is taking action to address the global challenge.

“It's important for the government to be credible on climate change, to meet its commitments meet its promises and that's exactly what we're doing,” he said.

“There’s scope to do more after 2030 and there might be up to 2030.”

Under Ms Steggall's proposal, the Climate Change Commission would assess risks, advise Parliament and monitor climate change actions and impacts.

There would be an annual National Climate Change Risk Assessment, that would review changes to national and regional climates, water availability, vegetation and air quality.

Independent MP Helen Haines said passing the legislation would prove to the Australian people that politicians can work together for the greater good.

“We need to restore trust in this Parliament and this bill will help us to do that,” she said.

Additional reporting by AAP

Published 10 February 2020 at 2:20pm
By Tom Stayner