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Canberra Today 18°/22° | Monday, December 6, 2021 | Digital Edition | Crossword & Sudoku

Canberra Liberals step away from Morrison

“In an attempt to neutralise the advantage of Labor and the Greens on climate change, Elizabeth Lee argues she would like to see the ACT go even further,” writes political columnist MICHAEL MOORE.

ACT Opposition Leader Elizabeth Lee effectively put herself in conflict with the Prime Minister when she decided to attend the Glasgow United Nations Climate Conference (COP26) “to engage with climate change experts and leaders from all around the world”. 

Michael Moore.

Perhaps neither of them see it that way. However, the language used and the motivation are very, very different. Scott Morrison has been trying to paint himself as the reluctant hero who finally brought his party colleagues onside to come up with a net zero by 2050 strategy. 

Elizabeth Lee has found a way to attend the Glasgow conference because she recognises the issue is important to her constituents and is looking for ways to make the ACT more sustainable. Ms Lee attended as part of a delegation organised by the Coalition for Conservation, a conservative Australian lobby group that advocates for climate change. 

Her attendance at COP26, where she is presenting three times, is part of the Canberra Liberals’ move towards the middle ground within the ACT political environment. 

Her reasons for attending reflect this move towards centre politics. “Action on conserving our environment, valuing and respecting our environment, they’re inherently conservative values and it’s also important to note that action on climate change, action to conserve our environment, should not be a political issue,” according to Ms Lee. 

While the Prime Minister is busy attempting to sell what has widely been exposed as a “dud” climate-change policy, the ACT Opposition Leader claims climate change is “something that is of great importance to many people across all political spectrums. It’s important that leaders show that”.

There is an irony in such a statement coming from a Liberal leader when so many of the federal coalition members either play down the significance of climate change or flatly disbelieve in its impact or the role played by humankind. 

Ms Lee attempts to remove the party political rhetoric by recognising what has been achieved by those in government. She also offered to represent the ACT at the conference since no government members were attending. In an attempt to neutralise the advantage of Labor and the Greens on climate change, she argues she would like to see the ACT go even further.

She refers to her first Budget in Reply speech to indicate that this is not just a timely jump on the bandwagon. In that speech she “highlighted the opportunity for Canberra to go beyond climate-change targets and become a genuine world leader in developing solutions, led by some of the best minds in the country.”

Political opportunism often underpins even the best of intentions. This is a timely intervention. It does separate the Canberra Liberals from the very conservative federal Liberal coalition government. It also exposes the fact that while the ACT Labor/Greens government does not see the Glasgow United Nations Climate Change Conference as important enough for them to attend, the Canberra Liberals are prepared to send their leader.

A very measured announcement by Lee is in marked contrast to the failures of the Prime Minister. Yes, he has attended the conference. Yes, he has announced a commitment to net zero by 2050. However, in the meantime, he has demonstrated his inability to see the difference between marketing and diplomacy. 

When he argued that the French president was attacking Australians, we all knew better. The reality is that Morrison was attempting to move the focus from his own blundering to focus Australian anger on to Emmanuel Macron. We do know better. It is Scott Morrison that was accused of lying – not Australia. 

Hopefully, we are seeing a different and more diplomatic approach from Ms Lee. The ideal is that she will return to Australia with some fresh ideas and work in a co-ordinated and non-partisan manner with the Labor/Greens government to implement them.

Michael Moore is a former member of the ACT Legislative Assembly and an independent minister for health. He has been a political columnist with “CityNews” since 2006.

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