Cross-party bid for climate emergency vote

John Hewson wants the coalition to give its MPs a conscience vote on declaring a climate emergency.
John Hewson wants the coalition to give its MPs a conscience vote on declaring a climate emergency.

A former Liberal luminary wants all politicians pinned down and challenged to show their hand on climate change in a push to declare Australia in a state of emergency.

John Hewson has added his voice to the bid from the Greens and independent MPs to get parliament to declare a climate emergency for the nation.

He said over the past three decades there had been countless opportunities for climate action lost to short-term politics.

"I'd like to see members of parliament ... challenged to take a position, to come out and to declare their stance on climate so that they're accountable to their constituents, they're accountable to their children and their grandchildren, they're accountable to future generations," he told reporters in Canberra on Wednesday.

Nearly three million Australians are living in areas where their local councils have declared climate emergencies and pledged greater action to combat climate change, including aiming for 100 per cent renewable energy and zero net emissions.

Countries including Britain, France and Canada have also made the call.

The group believes if the coalition party room gives its members a conscience vote on the issue, a motion declaring the emergency can pass parliament.

It won't force the issue until later in the year to give time to build parliamentary support.

"It will have a big impact on Australian politics and Australian policy if we can get it passed," Greens MP Adam Bandt, who is leading the push, told reporters.

"When the government declares that we're at war, it's a sign to the whole country that we need to get behind the effort to protect the nation.

"And when parliament declares that we are facing a climate and environment emergency, it's a sign to everyone that this has to be priority number one to protect our way of life."

Prime Minister Scott Morrison defended his government's action on climate.

"I will not accept, whether it is from the member for Melbourne or anyone else, anywhere else, that Australia is not doing its own heavy lifting when it comes to taking action on climate change," he told parliament.

Independent Zali Steggall, who won former prime minister Tony Abbott's seat on a platform of strong climate action, cites the lessons of her business background in saying a problem has to be recognised and a plan formed before anything can change.

"We can't just head towards the future without a plan or the impact will be severe," she said.

But senior Labor frontbencher Joel Fitzgibbon is not sold on the idea.

"I don't think words mean all that much - I want action," he told ABC radio.

Instead, Mr Fitzgibbon wants to work with the government on a comprehensive drought policy.

And One Nation leader Pauline Hanson - whose colleague Malcolm Roberts is a climate change denier - dismissed the push as "a load of bloody hogwash"

"As if that's going to make any damn difference to what's happening to the climate," she told Sky News.

Australian Associated Press