The move enabled the Coalition’s climate-sceptic faction to oust Malcolm Turnbull as Liberal leader and replace him with Tony Abbott, who won the 2013 election, partly by promising to scrap Julia Gillard’s replacement for the rejected emissions scheme.
Labor frontbencher and junior spokesman on climate change Pat Conroy said Senator Steele-John’s comments showed were reprehensible.
“For Senator Steele-John to exploit the bushfire crisis to launch a mendacious political attack regarding climate policy is disgusting.”
“Attempting to rewrite history is bad enough, but it is offensive to use the bushfire tragedy for these nakedly political ends.”
Mr Conroy said the Greens were incapable of learning from their part in “the biggest errors in the Australian climate policy debate”, something he said made the Green party the “biggest betrayers of the climate.”
“Their decision to team up with Tony Abbott to vote down the CPRS was the biggest error in the Australian climate policy debate,” Mr Conroy said.
Mr Conroy also said former Greens leader Bob Brown’s convoy to Queensland during the election campaign had delivered the Coalition four key seats, thwarting Labor’s pledge to cut emissions by 45 per cent by 2030, compared to the Coalition’s 26 per cent target, that could be as little as 16 per cent.
“Their Adani caravan helped deliver four central Queensland seats to the climate science-denying Liberal National Party, they put the perfect ahead of the possible in terms of climate policy,” Mr Conroy said.
Mr Conroy’s comments came as Mr Abbott told Israel public radio that the “new religion” of the “climate cult” would produce outcomes that would “hit people over the head with reality.”
“Sooner or later the climate cult is going to produce policy outcomes which will cause people to wake up to themselves,” Mr Abbott told Israel Public Radio in an interview aired on New Year’s Eve.
“Sooner or later, in the end, people will get hit over the head with reality.”
Prime Minister Scott Morrison has defended the Coalition’s climate reduction targets as adequate and strongly linked the ferocity of the bushfires to a lack of backburning.
“[Fuel loads]… has been a constant source of feedback by those on the ground. Issues in national parks, issues of hazard reduction and how that has worked over a period of time, that needs to be looked at undoubtedly,” the prime minister said on Thursday.
Labor Leader Anthony Albanese has called for a carbon pricing “mechanism of some form” as well as a renewable energy target. He said the economic and health havoc caused by the fires had drawn a line under the complaint that lowering emission would cost too much.
“I think it’s about time that those people who say, ‘Oh, climate change is nonsense. Acting on climate change will cost us,’ actually had an assessment of what the cost of inaction is, because it’s astronomical. And we’re seeing it played out right now,” Mr Albanese told ABC News 24.
Senator Steele-John has been contacted for comment.
Latika Bourke is a journalist for The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age, based in London.