Dear Wentworth Voters: Here’s 123 Things Our Leaders Did To ‘Confront’ Climate Change


A recent ReachTel poll commissioned by Greenpeace Australia found that for the voters of Wentworth – former Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull’s old seat – tackling climate change was their number one priority. With the Wentworth by-election to be staged on Saturday, Liam McLoughlin thought it timely to help the good voters of the eastern suburbs focus their minds on the Liberal Party’s action on climate change over the last five years. It’s a long list… actually, it’s a long Shitlist.


Tony Abbott eats an onion. Just because.

Prime Minister Tony Abbott*

  1. Abolishes key ministerial positions of climate change and science – 16 September 2013
  2. Abolishes the Climate Commission – 19 September 2013
  3. Denies there is a link between climate change and more severe bush fires and accuses a senior UN official of “talking through their hat” – 23 October 2013
  4. Abolishes the Antarctic Animal Ethics Committee which ensured research on animals in the Antarctic complies with Australian standards – 8 November 2013
  5. Cuts 600 jobs at the CSIRO – 8 November 2013
  6. Abandons Australia’s emission reduction targets – 12 November, 2013
  7. Downgrades national environment laws by giving approval powers to state premiers – 9 December 2013
  8. Removes the community’s right to challenge decisions where the government has ignored expert advice on threatened species impacts – 9 December 2013
  9. Approves the largest coal port in the world in the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area – 10 December 2013
  10. Approves Clive Palmer’s mega coal mine in the Galilee Basin which opponents say will severely damage Great Barrier Reef – 11 December 2013
  11. Overturns the “critically endangered” listing of the Murray Darling Basin – 11 December 2013
  12. Scraps the COAG Standing Council on Environment and Water – 13 December 2013
  13. Starts dismantling Australia’s world leading marine protection system – 13 December 2013
  14. Axes funding for animal welfare – 17 December 2013
  15. Defunds the Environmental Defenders Office which is a network of community legal centres providing free advice on environmental law – 17 December 2013
  16. Scraps the Home Energy Saver Scheme which helps struggling low income households cut their electricity bills – 17 December 2013
  17. Cuts funding to the Energy Efficiency Opportunities Programme which makes it mandatory for large energy-using-businesses to improve their efficiency –17 December, 2013
  18. Requests the delisting of World Heritage status for Tasmanian forests – 21 December 2013
  19. Breaks his promise to provide a customs vessel to monitor whaling operations in the Southern Ocean – 23 December 2013
  20. Defunds all international environmental programs, the International Labour Organisation and cuts funding to a range of international aid programs run by NGOs such as Save the Children, Oxfam, CARE Australia and Caritas – 18 January 2014
  21. Exempts Western Australia from national environment laws to facilitate shark culling – 21 January 2014
  22. Appoints a climate change skeptic to head a review of our renewable energy target – 17 February 2014
  23. Blames carbon pricing for the closure of Alcoa smelters and rolling mills and the loss of nearly 1,000 jobs, despite the fact the company states it had no bearing on their decision – 19 February 2014
  24. Axes funding earmarked to save the Sumatran rhinoceros from extinction – 28 February 2014
  25. Cuts hundreds of jobs at the CSIRO – 14 March 2014
  26. Cuts 480 jobs from the Environment Department which help protect places such as Kakadu, Antarctica and the Great Barrier Reef – 7 April 2014
  27. Scraps the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) which was set up to support new and emerging renewable technologies and in doing so breaks an election promise – 13 May 2014
  28. Axes industry and community clean energy programs including the Low Emissions Technology Demonstration Fund, the National Low Emission Coal Initiative, Energy Efficiency Programmes, the National Solar Schools Plan, Energy Efficiency Information Grants and Low Carbon Communities – 13 May 2014
  29. Cuts Australia’s Animal Welfare Strategy – 13 May 2014
  30. Rips a further $111.4 million over four years out of the operating budget of the CSIRO – 13 May 2014
  31. Reduces funding to the Australian Institute for Marine Science – 13 May 2014
  32. Breaks a promise to have one million more solar roofs across Australia and at least 25 solar towns – 13 May 2014
  33. Breaks a promise to spend $2.55 billion on the Emissions Reduction Fund by committing less than half this amount in the budget – 13 May 2014
  34. Terminates the Office of Water Science research programme – 13 May, 2014
  35. Slashes the Biodiversity Fund – 13 May, 2014
  36. Scraps the National Water Commission – 13 May, 2014
  37. Axes the carbon tax with no viable policy to address climate change or Australia’s emission targets – 17 July, 2014
  38. Repeals the mining tax on the profits of big coal and iron ore companies – 2 September 2014
  39. Cuts spending on science and innovation to the lowest levels since the data was first published – 07 October, 2014
  40. Describes coal as “good for humanity” while opening a coal mine in Queensland – 13 October, 2014
  41. Refuses to contribute to the fund Green Climate Fund, which Abbott described the year before as “socialism masquerading as environmentalism” – 17 November, 2014
  42. Cuts  CSIRO funding, which means that CSIRO will lose 1/5 of its workforce  – 24 November, 2014
  43. Cuts the Climate Adaptation Outlook Independent Expert Group – 15 December 2014
  44. Cuts the Biological Diversity Advisory Committee – 15 December 2014
  45. Abolishes the Subcommittee on Animal Health Laboratory Standards – 15 December 2014
  46. Abolishes the Antarctic Science Advisory Committee – 15 December 2014
  47. Abolishes the Emissions Intensive–-Trade Exposed Expert Advisory Committee –15 December 2014
  48. Disbands the Commonwealth Environmental Water Stakeholder Reference Panel – 15 December 2014
  49. Abolishes the COAG Standing Council on Environment and Water – 15 December 2014
  50. Abolishes the Bureau of Meteorology Water Accounting Standards Board – 15 December 2014
  51. Abolishes the National Marine Mammal Scientific Committee – 15 December 2014
  52. Disbands the National Marine Mammal Advisory Committee – 15 December 2014
  53. Abolishes the National Landscapes Reference Committee – 15 December 2014
  54. Abolishes the Technical Advisory Committee for the Coal Mining Abatement Technology Support Package – 15 December 2014
  55. Abolishes the Marine Council – 15 December 2014
  56. Appoints a climate skeptic who praised Rupert Murdoch as the “starting point for green innovation” to the position of Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of the Environment – 21 December 2014
  57. Cuts $12.5 million from the National Heritage Trust – 12 May 2015
  58. Establishes a Commissioner for Wind Farms – 24 June 2015
  59. Slashes the renewable energy target – 24 June 2015
  60. Intense lobbying keeps Great Barrier Reef off UNESCO’s world heritage in-danger list despite many government decisions which threaten it – 2 July 2015
  61. Directs the Clean Energy Finance Corporation to stop investing in wind power – 12 July 2015
  62. Bans the Clean Energy Finance Corporation from investing in roof top solar panels and other small scale solar energy – 12 July 2015
  63. Reduces Australia’s carbon emissions reduction target – 11 August 2015
  64. Tries to introduce laws to stop citizens exercising their legal rights to stop big developments that damage the environment – 19 August 2015



Former Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull. (IMAGE: Veni, Flickr).

 Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull

  1. Approves Carmichael coal mine – 16 October 2015
  2. Environment Minister Greg Hunt claims selling India Australian coal will cut carbon emissions – 10 Dec 2015
  3. Approves Abbot Point Coal Terminal expansion – 22 December 2015
  4. Presides over a drop in Australia’s ranking on the Environmental Performance Index of 10 places – 28 January 2016
  5. Approves logging in Murray Valley National Park – 28 February 2016
  6. Tries to loan Adani $1 billion to build a railway link to the Carmichael mine and promises to “fix” native title problems – 11 April 2017
  7. Describes Labor’s emissions trading scheme as “jobs destroying”, a handbrake on the economy, leading to “much higher energy prices.” – 27 April 2016
  8. Says coal will be important for “many, many decades to come” – 25 October 2016
  9. Seeks changes to the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act to stop conservation groups challenging environmental ministerial decisions – October 31, 2016
  10. Says “if anyone had a vested interest in showing you that you could do really smart, clean things with coal, it would be us” – 1 February, 2017
  11. Opens $5 billion infrastructure fund for “clean-coal” power stations – 3 February 2017
  12. Hires Sid Marris, former head of climate and environment at the Minerals Council of Australia, to be his climate and energy adviser – 3 February 2017
  13. Scott Morrison brings a lump of coal to question time and says “This is coal. Don’t be afraid. Don’t be scared.” – 9 February 2017
  14. Ignores advice that renewable energy was not to blame for South Australian blackouts – 13 February 2017
  15. Oversees 3.4% rise in emissions within 12 months and 7.5% increase since the Abbott-Turnbull government scrapped the carbon price – 01 March 2017
  16. Diverts funds from Clean Energy Finance Corporation to fund coal with carbon capture and storage – 31 May 2017
  17. Stops releasing pollution data that used to be announced on a quarterly basis – 7 July 2017
  18. Attacks South Australian renewable energy policy as “ideology and idiocy in equal measure” – 14 August 2017
  19. Lobbies AGL to delay closure of ageing Liddell coal power station for another five years – 5 September 2017
  20. Dumps Clean Energy Target – 17 October 2017
  21. Plans to reduce environmental spending to less than 60% of 2013-2014 budget – 13 December 2017
  22. Data released in the week before Christmas shows highest greenhouse gas emissions on record when land use change emissions excluded – 19 December 2017
  23. This data shows emissions increasing to 2030 and beyond – 19 December 2017
  24. Declares climate policies are a big success – 19 December 2017
  25. Climate policy review loosens the safeguard mechanism that sets limits on pollution – 19 December 2017
  26. Government fails to list a single piece of critical habitat for protection despite 1800 species and ecological communities being identified as threatened in Australia – 6 Match 2018
  27. Backs Pauline Hanson’s motion for new coal-fired power stations – 27 June 2018
  28. Turnbull’s signature emissions reduction policy, the National Energy Guarantee, described as having ‘no benefit’ to emissions – 18 July 2018.
  29. Personally approves $443m fund for Great Barrier Reef Foundation, an organisation with ties to BHP, Shell and Peabody Energy – 31 July 2018.
  30. Removes emissions reduction target from National Energy Guarantee – 20 August 1018



Scott Morrison is sworn in as the 30th Australian Prime Minister.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison

  1. Appoints Angus Taylor, long-time campaigner against the Renewable Energy Target and a fierce critic of wind energy, as Minister for Energy – 26 August 2018
  2. Appoints Melissa Price, a former general counsel for Crosslands Resources, which owns the Jack Hills iron ore project in Western Australia, as Minister for the Environment – 26 August 2018
  3. Appoints Matt Canavan, who doubts the importance of climate change mitigation and is a strong advocate of Adani’s Carmichael coal mine but dismisses the battery storage facility, the Hornsdale Power Reserve, as the “Kim Kardashian of the energy world”, as Minister for Resources – 26 August 2018
  4. Angus Taylor indicates more taxpayer money for existing coal and gas – 30 August 2018
  5. Revealed that the Marine Park Authority had to scale back surveys in 2017, a year of massive coral bleaching, due to lack of government funds – 2 September 2018
  6. Angus Taylor says there is too much wind and solar in the electricity grid – 5 September 2018
  7. Tries to water down climate change resolution at Pacific Islands forum – 6 September 2018
  8. Union tells Senate inquiry that 87% of members who work in threatened species management in the environment department and other government agencies thought Australia’s effectiveness in protecting critical habitat was poor or very poor – 7 September 2018
  9. Resources Minister Matt Canavan says Paris agreement “doesn’t actually bind us to anything in particular” and doesn’t stop Australia building new coal plants – 7 September 2018
  10. PM says National Energy Guarantee “is dead” – 8 September 2018
  11. Tony Abbott advocates scrapping of renewable energy subsidies – 11 September 2018
  12. Report shows Australia’s transport emissions rose 3.4% from December 2016-December 2017 – 13 September 2018
  13. Angus Taylor announces Morrison government won’t be replacing the renewable energy target “with anything” beyond 2020 – 18 September 2018
  14. Approves private tourism development with helicopter access in Tasmanian world heritage wilderness – 31 August 2018
  15. Morrison says Australia will meet its Paris emissions targets “at a canter” despite no emissions reductions policies and statements from the Energy Security Board to the contrary – 5 September 2018
  16. Australia receives bottom three ranking for environmental policy among wealthy nations – 18 September 2018
  17. Government tells Great Barrier Reef scientists to focus on projects which make the government look good and encourage more corporate donations – 26 September 2018
  18. Releases data showing March quarter increase in emissions of 1.3% on a Friday afternoon, which was a public holiday in Victoria and the same day as the release of the banking sector royal commission interim report – 28 September 2018
  19. Describes $444m Great Barrier Reef Foundation grant as the “right financial decision” – 1 October 2018.
  20. Data reveals 770,000 hectares (three times the size of the ACT) of forests in the Great Barrier Reef catchment zone have been cleared since Tony Abbott was elected in 2013 – 4 October 2018.
  21. Senate inquiry into threatened species told Australia’s environment laws have been “white-anted with loopholes” and hears of “massive and pervasive non-compliance with legislation” – 8 October 2018
  22. PM rules out providing more money for global climate conferences and “all that sort of nonsense”– 8 October 2018
  23. Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack says Australia should “absolutely use and exploit its coal reserves” despite IPCC warnings of climate catastrophe and says Australia wouldn’t change climate policy because of “some sort of report” – 9 October 2018
  24. Matt Canavan responds to the IPCC calls for phasing out coal by 2050 to avoid the worst impacts of climate change by saying “many argue that coal markets are in structural decline when nothing could be further from the truth” and “our coal is the envy of the world and we should promote it proudly” – 9 October 2018
  25. Melissa Price responds to the IPCC report by saying “every year there’s new technology with respect to coal and what it contributes to emissions. So I think to say it’s got to be phased out by 2050 is drawing a very long bow” – 9 October 2018
  26. Angus Taylor says the government would “not be distracted from our goal of lowering power prices for Australian households and small business” and “coal will continue to play a vital role in our energy mix, now and into the future” – 10 October 2018
  27. Former Energy Minister Josh Frydenberg responded to the grave IPCC warnings with “If we take coal out of our energy system, the lights will go out on the East Coast of Australia” – 9 October 2018
  28. Chairman of Coalition’s backbench energy committee Craig Kelly says the government needs to axe renewable energy subsidies – 16 October 2018
  29. Melissa Price reported to have told the former president of Kiribati at a dinner in Canberra ““I know why you are here, it’s for the cash. For the Pacific, it’s always about the cash. I have my cheque book here, how much do you want?” then accused of misleading Parliament over it – 17 October 2018

To be continued…

* Full credit to Sally McManus for this section thanks to her work on Tracking Abbott’s Wreckage.


Liam McLoughlin teaches English, politics, and media, and writes a bit. You can find his stuff at Situation Theatre or on Facebook and Twitter. He still can’t decide which quote is more profound: Karl Marx’s “It is not the consciousness of men that determines their existence, but their social existence that determines their consciousness” or Stewart Lee’s “David Cameron and Ed Milliband are about as different as two rats fighting over a courgette that has fallen into a urinal. The main difference being that the David Cameron rat is wearing chinos, in an attempt to win over the youth voter”.