Tony Abbott had this to say about the government’s Clean Energy Future legislation yesterday:

”disastrous for our democracy …

“This isn’t just nonsense, this is nonsense on stilts by a government which has no real understanding of the economy of the real world in which most of us live …

“bad tax based on a lie …

“the longest political suicide note in Australian history …”

Malcolm Turnbull had something to say, too. And then he didn’t. He was listed on Tuesday night to speak on the issue, but then mysteriously his name was removed from the list yesterday morning. According to staff, it had been included on the list in error by chief whip Warren Entsch’s office.

Turnbull later found his voice at a press conference, where he said the scheme before the Parliament had a lot in common with the scheme negotiated with Labor in 2009, and he would “study the debate” before deciding whether to speak.

Turnbull had plenty to talk about in 2009, right before he lost the Liberal leadership:

“This has now become a question not simply of the environmental responsibility of the Liberal Party but of its integrity.

“We agreed with the government on this deal. We must retain our credibility on taking action on climate change. We cannot be seen as a party of climate sceptics and do-nothings on climate change.

“That is absolutely fatal.”

And here he is in April this year talking to the BBC’s Hardtalk:

There are choice quotes such as:

“… the scheme that Kevin Rudd proposed in 2009 … was really the same policy that John Howard had had when he was PM. You have to remember that there had been bipartisanship for quite a while that Australia should cut its emissions … certainly what was seen as the most efficient way … which was a market-based mechanism.”


“… oppositions shouldn’t oppose everything, nobody argues that …”


“… we’ll see what develops … obviously it’s always open for any member of the shadow cabinet if they can’t live with the collective decision to resign, and that of course is what Tony Abbott did to me …

“… the answer is I’m not about to resign. But there is the principle of whether you should seek to … put a price on carbon …

“Tony Abbott’s policy, the coalition’s policy, is to cut emissions by … government buying billions of dollars worth of carbon offsets … it’s not a market mechanism scheme in the true sense … as to whether … the carbon tax ultimately emerging from this Green-Labor coalition is going to command support … we just don’t know … it is likely to be a very extreme economically damaging model. Just because someone like myself is in favour of a market-based mechanism of putting a price on carbon doesn’t mean I’m going to support any variant on that theme …”

Given the legislation currently before Parliament is not entirely dissimilar to Rudd’s original CPRS that Turnbull supported and, as a consequence, lost his leadership over, we’ve very keen to hear what Malcolm has to say after he has picked over all 18 pieces of legislation.

Don’t be shy, Malcolm. We’re listening.

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey