Australians want credible climate policies: Turnbull

The rise of the teal independents has dealt a "potentially terminal" blow to the federal Liberal Party's chances of returning to government, Malcolm Turnbull says.

The former Australian prime minister gave the dire prognosis for his former party in a conversation with Helen Clark, the former New Zealand prime minister, on Monday.

In an hour-long webinar hosted by the Helen Clark Foundation, the pair discussed climate change and green energy before Ms Clark asked Mr Turnbull about climate politics in Australia.

Mr Turnbull, returning from a week in Dubai at the COP28 climate talks, said Australians wanted a shift to renewable energy to both lower their power bills and to avoid climate-related catastrophic events.

The 69-year-old said the teals' rise came from a backlash to right-wing influences in Australia - the fossil fuel lobby, Rupert Murdoch-owned media outlets, and populists on the far right of the Liberal Party - that prevented action on climate change.

Those forces helped Tony Abbott win the 2013 federal election but "blew up massively" on Scott Morrison in 2022, he said.

"One of the big problems we've had is Murdoch. You're very lucky not to have Murdoch in the media in New Zealand," he said.

"Global warming was turned into an identity issue, an ideological issue, almost a religious issue, a cultural war issue.

"In Australia, you had that toxic combination of the fossil fuel sector that had a vested interest in it.

"You had the populist right in politics which was much of the right-wing of my party, the Liberal Party, and of course, you had the right-wing media and this is where Murdoch was totally uninhibited. 

"You see it particularly with Fox News in the States (USA) or Sky News in Australia, you see what they're doing after dark. It's wild stuff.

"It is untethered, to facts, reality ... and it's created an ecosystem in which a lot of crazy populism has flourished.

"That's been the challenge in Australia."

Mr Turnbull said the rise of teal independents created a structural problem for the Liberals.

Eight of the nine teal MPs hold seats previously considered safe Liberal or National, including six won at the last election.

"Seats literally where ... all you'd spend on your campaign was whatever you needed to put up a few corflutes and how-to-votes. Very safe seats," he said.

"It's, I think, potentially a terminal problem for the Liberal Party because ... if you can't hold your safest seats how do you get to a majority? 

Australians increasingly wanted credible climate policies from their political parties, he said.

"Public opinion is more positive about needing action on global warming and it's hard to persuade Australians that renewable energy is fake or too expensive as over a third of households have solar panels on their roof.

"And of course we've had the most terrible, extreme climate events."

Mr Turnbull has regularly hit out at Murdoch-owned media and in March he replaced former Labor prime minister Kevin Rudd as the chair of a campaign for a royal commission into the Australian's empire.

Mr Turnbull attended COP28 in two capacities, as president of the International Hydropower Association and chair of the Green Hydrogen Organisation.

Global warming was "the big overarching threat" facing humanity, he said.

"Unless we stop burning fossil fuels, we're going to make this planet of ours increasingly uninhabitable for billions of people," he said.

"Cracking on with that job is just all pervasive and the obligation is fundamental, basic if we want to care for the only planet we've got."

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