Former prime minister Malcolm Turnbull has lashed out at the Liberal Party for its ineptitude in dealing with climate change, saying the party has failed to deliver “a coherent national energy policy”, for which Australians are now paying in the form of high energy bills.
“The Liberal Party has just proved itself incapable of dealing with the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions in any sort of systematic way,” Mr Turnbull told The Australian.
“The consequence … is without question that we are paying higher prices for electricity and having higher emissions.”
Mr Turnbull delivered this damning assessment in his first interview since relinquishing the Liberal Party reins in May last year. He said that his former party had been influenced by climate change denialists and believes that a true conservative would support the reduction of carbon emissions.
“Conservatives are practical,” he said. “There is nothing conservative, for example, [in] denying the science of climate change. That’s not a conservative position. That is just, well, that is just denying reality. You might as well deny gravity.
“We [need to] have an effective set of rules to govern our energy market and ensure a low cost and stable transition from burning fossil fuels to renewable energy.
“We are paying higher prices for electricity than we should, and we are having [more] emissions than we should, so it is a lose-lose. And if you talk to anybody in industry, the energy sector, they will confirm what I just said to you.”
He said his biggest regret was not defining a new national energy policy, consisting of reliable legacy generators and renewable energy sources that met lower emissions targets.
While talking about the 75th anniversary of the Liberal Party, Mr Turnbull stressed that he led a “progressive and reforming government”, in line with principal founder Robert Menzies’ vision of a party that was “genuinely progressive”.
“Menzies was establishing the Liberal Party at a time when people were rejecting both the authoritarianism of the left and the right, both communism and fascism, and the conventional laissez faire capitalism that people did not think served them well during the years leading up to the war,” he said.
Mr Turnbull said the term “conservative” has been “debauched”, had lost its true meaning, with his former party now more accurately described as “reactionary and populist”.
“I am conservative, but the difficulty is that the term has been completely debauched,” he said.
“Most of the people who claim to be conservatives nowadays would be better off described as reactionaries or populists.
“I mean conservatives respect tradition [and] build upon existing tradition as they embrace change.
“Donald Trump, for example, is not a conservative. Whatever he is, he is not a conservative.
“The space that people have often identified with a conservative approach is increasingly being occupied by populists, who are, whether you describe them as reactionaries or authoritarian populists I’m not sure, but there is certainly nothing conservative about it.”
Mr Turnbull refused to comment on losing the Liberal leadership, saying those details would come out in his forthcoming memoir, but did say he would have welcomed Julie Bishop as his successor.
“Yes, I certainly would have welcomed that … she certainly had the capacity to lead the party,” he said. “She is eloquent, she is persuasive, she is incredibly hard working, and I could not have asked for a more loyal or capable deputy.”
What do you think of Mr Turnbull’s comments? Do you think the Liberal Party philosophy has changed in recent years?
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