Prime Minister Scott Morrison is backing ‘can-do capitalism’ to drive down climate emissions but Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese is warning lockdown-weary voters not to get sucked into what he called a “nonsense” debate over government intervention.
The Coalition government is betting that after more than a year of extreme state intervention justified by the coronavirus pandemic, Australians will be eager to feel less of the state in their lives and apply that mentality to climate policy ahead of the next election. Mr Morrison has stuck to a “technology not taxes” message to deal with climate change, as he encouraged Australians to buy the electric vehicles the Coalition disparaged in the 2019 election campaign.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison is backing private investment to drive technologies to deal with climate change.Credit:Paul Jeffers
Launching a new $1 billion fund for fledging companies aiming to develop emerging low-emission technologies on Wednesday, the Prime Minister said $100 trillion of private capital was pouring into climate technology.
“We believe climate change will ultimately be solved by ‘can do’ capitalism; not ‘don’t do’ governments seeking to control people’s lives and tell them what to do,” Mr Morrison said, arguing regulation and taxes would raise the cost of living and hurt businesses.
“[We’re] respecting consumers’ choices, not telling them what to do with mandates.”
But Mr Albanese said the government’s rhetoric of “freedom” on climate policy was a nod to far-right politics as he moved to capture the centre of the debate, urging Australians to deal with the global reality of climate change as industries moved away from pollution.
“Let’s not have people sucked into this nonsense argument about choice and mandates. It’s complete nonsense. The fact is … for people who are born today, they won’t have a choice of buying a petrol vehicle, because no one will be making them,” he said.
Mr Albanese dismissed Mr Morrison’s latest announcement as spin that ran contrary to the eight-year-old government’s record but grew angry when asked about Labor’s philosophical position on quotas, targets and mandates.
He said Labor was, in fact, the party of choice because it recognised that global automotive makers were moving away from petrol vehicles and would act to stop Australia from becoming the dumping ground for old models as the rest of the world moved toward electric vehicles.
In 2019 the Coalition claimed Labor was against utes and “the weekend” because of its target for 50 per cent of new cars sold by 2030 to be electric. But this week Mr Morrison revealed a plan to significantly increase the number of electric vehicles in Australia, while insisting it was not inconsistent with his previous views.
Mr Albanese also championed Labor’s promise to legislate a binding net zero emissions target by 2050 if it wins government, in contrast to the Coalition’s unenforceable commitment to hit the same goal, as an ALP strength.
“They’re trying to turn their internal turmoil within the Liberal Party, within the National Party… into a position whereby it’s a virtue, somehow, that that’s about freedom in some sort of channelling of far-right politics that doesn’t think that governments should ever legislate for the future,” he said.
Mr Morrison told hundreds of people who gathered for the annual Victorian Chamber of Commerce and Industry breakfast in Melbourne on Wednesday that Australia was now entering a “new energy economy”, with countries with net zero commitments making up more than 80 per cent of global GDP.
“And 90 per cent of Australia’s exports are to countries with net zero commitments. That of course is going to have an impact here in Australia. These are decisions being taken in other countries,” he said.
“We can’t ignore the reality of this. We cannot just sort of wish it away.”
He defended criticism from other world leaders for refusing to sign up to hard deadlines to phase out coal-fired power, saying the recent Glasgow climate summit reinforced his view that Australia must chart its own unique path for achieving net zero emissions by 2050.
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