Malcolm Turnbull lashes out at former colleagues, Murdoch media over climate denial

The former prime minister said Australia's climate debate has been hijacked.

The former prime minister said Australia's climate debate has been hijacked. Photo: Getty

Former prime minister Malcolm Turnbull has accused a “toxic, climate-denying alliance of right-wing politics”, the Murdoch media and the coal industry of hijacking Australia’s climate debate.

In a damning essay written for US publication Time magazine, Mr Turnbull said that while climate change was a simple matter of physics, Australian politics had made it a matter of ideology.

“In Australia, as in the US, this issue [climate change] has been hijacked by a toxic, climate-denying alliance of right-wing politics and media (much of it owned by Rupert Murdoch), as well as vested business interests, especially in the coal industry,” he said.

Mr Turnbull accused the Murdoch-owned media of spreading false information by blaming Australia’s bushfire crisis on arson or hazard-reduction management.

“Murdoch’s News Corp. newspapers and television networks have been busy arguing that arsonists or a lack of controlled burning are the real causes of the fires,” he wrote.

“This has been refuted point-blank by the chief of the fire service in New South Wales, but the misinformation campaign continues in both mainstream and social media.”

Ideology and idiocy

Mr Turnbull said that as prime minister he tried to ensure Australia’s climate and energy policies were “governed by engineering and economics, not ideology and idiocy”.

“Tragically, the climate-denying political right in Australia has turned what should be a practical question of how to respond to a real physical threat into a matter of values or belief.”

Mr Turnbull was deposed as Liberal leader in a party room coup in August 2018, when he was replaced as prime minister by Scott Morrison. 

Mr Turnbull said the efforts to take concerted action on climate change while prime minister resulted in him losing the leadership.

“In 2018, my government introduced a National Energy Guarantee (NEG), which combined emission reductions with reliability standards as a means of ensuring a smooth transition to a lower-emissions electricity sector while maintaining reliability of supply,” he said.

“It was supported by business and unions as well as state governments on both sides of politics. A majority of coalition legislators also backed it, but a right-wing minority, supported by their allies in the media, sabotaged the bill and then brought down my government.”

Mr Turnbull said one of Mr Morrison’s first acts was to formally abandon the NEG.

“Since then, the government has had no coherent, integrated climate and energy policy,” he said.

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