Albanese declares Coalition ‘stuck in time’ after Labor’s climate bill passes lower house

Legislation passes with amendments from independents and Greens, enshrining an emissions reduction target of 43% by 2030

The prime minister, Anthony Albanese, has declared the Coalition “stuck in time” after crossbench MPs and the Greens joined Labor to pass the government’s hallmark climate change legislation.

The passage of the bill through the lower house on Thursday enshrines in legislation an emissions reduction target of 43% on 2005 levels by 2030 and a net zero emissions commitment by 2050.

It also includes new obligations for the Climate Change Authority, including annual updates to parliament and amendments from independents and the Greens that give scope for more ambitious targets into the future.

The climate change minister, Chris Bowen, said the bill’s success was a “good day for our country”, and thanked the independents and the crossbench for working constructively on amending the bill.

Four lower house Greens MPs, along with independents Monique Ryan, Sophie Scamps, Allegra Spender, Zali Steggall, Kylea Tink, Rebekha Sharkie, Monique Ryan and Andrew Wilkie all voted with the government, allowing it to pass 89 votes to 55.

Anthony Albanese talks to the teal independents, Greens and crossbench MPs during voting and debate on amendments to the climate change bill in the House of Representatives on Thursday.
Anthony Albanese talks to the teal independents, Greens and crossbench MPs during voting and debate on amendments to the climate change bill in the House of Representatives on Thursday. Photograph: Mike Bowers/The Guardian

Tasmanian Liberal MP Bridget Archer crossed the floor to also support Labor’s legislation, after telling her Coalition colleagues on Tuesday she did not want to be perceived in her electorate as being against action on climate change.

While their amendments were among those adopted by the government, independents Kate Chaney and Helen Haines were absent with Covid-19.

Albanese said the bill’s passage fulfilled one of Labor’s “core” commitments as he denounced the Coalition for its “extraordinary” opposition when the bill had widespread backing, including from the business community.

“The parliament functioned effectively to support the mandate that we received at the election, with the exception of the Coalition, who continue to be stuck in time while the world warms around it,” he said.

“This so-called party of private enterprise has today thumbed its nose at the business community of Australia who are crying out for certainty going forward.

“It’s extraordinary that they chose to do that.”

Peter Dutton and other opposition members during divisions on amendments on the climate bill on Thursday.
Peter Dutton and other opposition members during divisions on amendments on the climate bill on Thursday. Photograph: Mick Tsikas/AAP

Albanese said he believed it would be untenable for the Coalition to go to the next election without reconsidering its position.

“It would be very brave indeed for an alternative political party like that – that seeks to govern, as opposed to a minor party – to say we’re going to tear down the structures that have been put in place that were supported overwhelmingly by the business community and by the mainstream of the conservation movement, but most importantly as well, by the Australian people,” he said.

In question time, Albanese doubled down on his criticism of the Coalition, and said the bill should mark the end of the climate wars.

“Today represents the opportunity for the parliament to stop arguing about whether to reduce emissions and start working together on how to reduce emissions,” he said.

The bill will now be assessed by a Senate inquiry which is due to report on 31 August. It is then expected to pass into law in the September sittings of parliament with the support of the Greens and independent ACT senator David Pocock.

The Greens leader, Adam Bandt, said the Senate inquiry would be an opportunity for a “rigorous examination” of the 114 new coal and gas projects on the books, saying they would undermine Labor’s emission targets.

“The passage of this bill is a small step along the road to tackling the climate emergency, but the good work can’t be undone by Labor now opening new coal and gas mines,” Bandt said.

He also flagged that the Greens would take a more hardline approach to negotiations on the new safeguard mechanism, which Labor intends to use to ensure the country’s biggest polluters begin to curb emissions.

“The Senate has to endorse the safeguard mechanism,” he said. “That’s the government’s opportunity to listen to the science, listen to our Pacific Island neighbours, listen to the United Nations and come up with a rule that will keep coal and gas in the ground and stop new projects from being opened. That’s the critical issue here.”


Sarah Martin Chief political correspondent

The GuardianTramp

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