Tony Abbott has gone back on his opposition to the Paris climate agreement, during a debate with his federal election opponent in the seat of Warringah, Zali Steggall. Composite: Mick Tsikas/Family Law Chambers/AAP
Tony Abbott has changed his mind and now says Australia should now stay in the Paris climate agreement
Abbott, who signed up to Paris when he was prime minister but then declared that Australia should pull out during the prime ministership of Malcolm Turnbull, confirmed he had changed his mind again during a debate on Friday morning with the independent challenger Zali Steggall in his federal seat of Warringah.
Asked by moderator David Speers if his change of heart was due to the ousting of Turnbull as prime minister, Abbott said it partly was.
“I certainly thought that the only way to break the emissions obsession was to pull out of Paris,” he said. “I think that the government has lost its emissions obsession now that Angus Taylor is the energy minister … Circumstances have changed. We have a new prime minister and a new energy minister.”
‘Now’ is the time for new coal plants, resources minister says
“So when Malcolm Turnbull was prime minister we should have pulled out?” Speers asked.
Abbott replied: “We had an emissions obsession that needed to be broken and changed. I am now confident that we can meet our Paris targets without significant damage to our economy.”
Abbott backed the creation of new coal-fired plants, even saying that the Snowy Hydro 2.0 project, which is owned by the government, should now look into investing in new coal projects.
“We do need more baseload power in the system,” he said. “Why not coal-fired power? Coal fire remains the cheapest form of baseload power.”Malcolm Turnbull (@TurnbullMalcolm)
But it isn’t. Today the cheapest form of new dispatchable or base load energy is renewables plus storage. We are now able to have lower emissions and lower prices but we need to plan it using engineering & economics rather than ideology and innumerate idiocyMarch 7, 2019
“Because of political risk it’s very difficult for most investors [to invest in coal], but there is no reason why Snowy, as a government entity, couldn’t take a much longer view. Snowy would fund hydro, that stacks up. If we take the long view, then absolutely coal stacks up too.”
Steggall, an independent who promised to run a climate-focused campaign, rejected this, and said the claim that coal was the cheapest was incorrect.
“Coal is not economic. It still plays a part in our energy mix, and there needs to be a gradual retirement of coal”.
“The reality is that the cheapest form of power is renewable.”
“Not 24/7,” Abbott replied. “Not when the wind doesn’t blow.”
Steggall: “That’s the most ludicrous argument. There is no intermittency issue”Sky News Australia (@SkyNewsAust)
.@TonyAbbottMHR: I think we do need more baseload power in the system and why not coal-fired power? It remains the cheapest form of reliable baseload power. I’m all in favour of renewables, provided they’re economic.
MORE: https://t.co/ykweMevBOK#SkyLiveNowpic.twitter.com/X2O0lWUOiSMarch 7, 2019
Steggall told the audience “it will be a climate election” and outlined a plan for a 60% renewable energy target by 2030 – higher than both Labor and the Coalition.
“My platform is that the new generation wants a new era and movement on climate change,” she said. “It will be a climate election. People want movement.”
She also took aim at Labor’s proposed franking credit policy, which would end the cash refunds for dividend imputation credits given to retirees and those with self-managed superannuation funds who earn below the tax threshold.
“I think it is an absolutely appalling proposal by Labor, I think it is extremely divisive,” she said.
“You are now saying to [retirees with excess credits] ‘Thanks for paying all your taxes for all those years and by the way, we are now going to stick you in your retirement.’”
However in a fiery debate with a lot of interruptions, neither Abbott nor Steggall offered a response when Speers asked the panel if they knew the current generation cost of a new coal-fired plant.
Only the Greens candidate, Kristyn Glanville, and the Labor candidate, Dean Harris, offered the figure.