Bishop says Abbott should explain change of heart

Foreign Minister Julie Bishop has launched a stinging attack on former Prime Minister Tony Abbott, saying he should explain his sudden change of heart on climate change.

Mr Abbott flew to London this week to address a climate sceptic group, the Global Warming Policy foundation, which was set up by the Thatcher-era Chancellor of the Exchequer Nigel Lawson in the lead up to the Copenhagen climate conference in 2009.

In his speech, he said that, even if climate change is real, it could be good because more people die in cold snaps. He said that, after looking at photographs of Manly beach, which is in his electorate of Warringah on Sydney’s northern beaches, he could see no evidence of climate change.

“It is up to him to explain the differences between his opinion then and his opinion now,” Julie Bishop said about Abbott’s speech. Photo: Andrew Meares

Speaking to the ABC’s 7.30 program from Seoul, Ms Bishop says Mr Abbott’s London speech, which Labor has derided as “loopy”, was in stark contrast to what he said and did as prime minister when he supported the Paris Climate Agreement, set national emissions targets and established the Renewable Energy Target.

“It is up to him to explain the differences between his opinion then and his opinion now,” she said on Thursday night.

“He is entitled to change his mind, but I am sure that is why there is a deal of interest in what he has to say,” Ms Bishop said.

“But the important thing is the government’s position and under Prime Minister [Malcolm] Turnbull we are working hard to come up with a plan that delivers affordable and reliable energy that will meet our international obligations.”

Ms Bishop baulked at questions about whether Mr Abbott’s constant undermining of the Turnbull government could cost the coalition the next election, or whether he ought be expelled.

Earlier this week, former Liberal leader John Hewson said Mr Turnbull needed to defy Mr Abbott in the party room over climate and energy policy, saying that by “drawing a line in the sand” he could deliver better policy and save his prime ministership.

Mr Abbott’s speech was quickly derided by Labor, the Greens and climate change activists. Labor frontbencher Tanya Plibersek said the speech was “loopy” and “just nuts.”

“Tony Abbott’s left the realm of the merely destructive and entered the realm of the loopy. This is actually just weird stuff from the former prime minister,” Ms Plibersek told Sky News.

Greens Senator Peter Whish-Wilson said it was time for the Liberal Party to take away Mr Abbott’s megaphone.

“The Liberal Party, if it wants to stop giving Tony Abbott a platform for his wrecking, should move to disendorse him. If not, it is tacit acceptance of the promotion of climate change denialism,” he said.

The Global Warming Policy Forum has published the text of the speech online.

According to a transcript of the speech posted on his personal website, Mr Abbott said that extreme weather events in are no more damaging than they were in the 1800s.

“In the floods are not bigger, the bushfires are not worse, the droughts are not deeper or longer, and the cyclones are not more severe than they were in the 1800s. Sometimes, they do more damage but that’s because there’s more to destroy, not because their intensity has increased,” he said.

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