Cost of climate inaction worries Australians: Labor

Stock image.
Stock image.

AUSTRALIANS are more concerned about the cost of inaction on climate change than the cost of action, former Labor leader Bill Shorten says.

“One thing I have noticed travelling around Victoria – people don’t stop me and ask: ‘What is the cost of acting on climate change,” he told reporters in Melbourne on Wednesday.

“People now, right across Australia are saying: ‘What is the cost of not acting on climate change.”

The cost of Labor’s climate policies were heavily criticised by the Morrison government during last year’s election campaign, with the coalition labelling their ambitious targets as “economy wrecking”.

Think-tank the Australia Institute on Wednesday published a survey of more than 1000 people, finding that almost half are now “very concerned” about climate change compared to less than 40 per cent six months ago.

“The bushfire crisis has intensified concern about climate change for many Australians, a majority of whom think the country is experiencing the impacts of climate change right here and right now,” institute deputy director Ebony Bennett said.

About 80 per cent of Australians are concerned about climate change, an increase of five points from July.

The Australia Institute has proposed a national climate disaster fund, which would be created by a levy on pollution from coal, gas and oil production.

The survey results come as Science Minister Karen Andrews seeks to quell public criticism of the government’s approach to climate change.

“Every second that we spend talking about whether the climate is changing is a second we are not spending on looking at adaptation, mitigation strategies,” she told ABC radio.

“It really is time for everyone to move on and to look at what we’re going to do.”

Her view puts her at odds with a handful of coalition backbenchers who remain outspoken about their denial of climate change.

Labor leader Anthony Albanese says it’s this group – including Craig Kelly and George Christensen – who have held the coalition’s climate change policies back.

“We shouldn’t forget that in 2007 both John Howard and Kevin Rudd went to an election with a mandate for a price on carbon and for action on climate change,” he told reporters in Melbourne.

“Thirteen years later the coalition are having a debate over whether climate change exists or not.

“Well, you can smell it, you can feel it, you can see it – the impact of climate change and the devastating effect it’s having on human beings, but also on our economy, on the way our society functions as well as on our natural environment.”

– AAP