The Deal That Forced Turnbull’s Climate Change


Labor is calling for the Liberal-National Coalition Agreement to be made public, with Shadow Treasurer Chris Bowen this morning implying voters are entitled to know what Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull is willing to “sell out” on this time around.

Bowen said the deal between the Liberal and National party leaders should “absolutely” be made public, in an interview on ABC Radio this morning. The written accord between the Liberal and National Party leaders sets out the terms of their Coalition, but it is typically kept secret.

Yesterday, Nationals Leader Barnaby Joyce made clear he’d like to keep it that way, stating that his “first aspiration is the agreement remains confidential”. If it’s anything like the last, Malcolm Turnbull would no doubt rather the agreement remain secret too.

When Turnbull rolled Tony Abbott in September last year he was widely reported to have agreed to maintaining his predecessor’s climate change policies, despite having derided them as “bullshit”. As the Prime Minister limps back into government struggling for a majority, he will again come under pressure from both sides on the issue.

On the one hand, Joyce is a well known climate sceptic and the Nationals are likely to stand in the way of a strong policy response. On the other, many voters remain disappointed that Turnbull has not acted on his personal convictions around climate change by developing a stronger response than Tony Abbott.

Barnaby Joyce
Vegetable enthusiast and tomato cousin, Nationals MP, Barnaby Joyce. (IMAGE: Apple and Pear Australia Ltd, Flickr)

With a review of key aspects of the Coalition’s Direct Action climate policy slated for 2017, Turnbull would at last have an opportunity to reshape the policy to reign in costs and make deeper cuts to carbon emissions.

However, as the Nationals engage in a bit of muscle-flexing after their comparatively good election results, Joyce may try to head off a significant shift in the way the policy operates by enshrining elements of it in the Coalition agreement.

This morning, Bowen alluded to these divides. He argued Malcolm Turnbull had been willing to “sell out with economic policy to the Nationals when he became Prime Minister by agreeing to an anti-business affects test, which is very poor policy indeed”.

He also raised the issue of marriage equality, another particularly vulnerable policy area for Turnbull after the Prime Minister forsook his public opposition to a costly plebiscite when he seized the Liberal leadership.

“[Turnbull] said that was the reason why he won’t have a conscience vote in the Parliament on marriage equality, because of the deal with the Nationals,” Bowen said.

While we may never know the contents of the leaders’ deal, or what constraints it puts on climate policy, there’s little doubt it has the potential to fuel ongoing tension in the Liberal-National marriage.

Thom Mitchell is New Matilda's Environment Reporter.