A Liberal Party veteran and former head of the federal government's green bank has unleashed on his party's "immoral" climate change policies, saying they "knowingly and willingly inflict damage on others".
Ex-Macquarie banker Oliver Yates, chief executive of the government's $10 billion Clean Energy Finance Corporation until April this year, said far-right members had hijacked the party and that "reform from the outside" may be required – in the form of a rival party that better reflects core Liberal values.
His comments follow a stunt by Victorian Liberal senator Jane Hume at a party fundraiser last Thursday night, in which she presented a mock lump of brown coal to Treasurer Scott Morrison. Mr Yates stood up and loudly objected to the stunt before angrily leaving the $10,000-a-table event at Melbourne venue Glasshouse.
Mr Yates told Fairfax Media that climate change was "not a laughing matter" and the stunt was "flagrantly immoral".
"If we don't address climate change and start to reduce our emissions, then it's likely that billions of families could be forced to move home unnecessarily," Mr Yates said.
He "cannot understand how Liberals would knowingly inflict damage on others when they have a perfectly workable economic cure in front of them" – the adoption of clean energy.
Mr Yates lives in the inner-Melbourne electorate of Kooyong, held by Environment and Energy Minister Josh Frydenberg. A life-long member of the Liberal Party, he is the son of former federal Liberal MP William Yates and began campaigning for the party at the age of nine. He is the independent director of several emerging renewable energy companies.
Mr Yates said last week's stunt capped off a "pattern of behaviour" by the government. He cited a recent review of the national electricity market by Chief Scientist Alan Finkel, who was asked by the government to provide advice using emissions reduction calculations which Mr Yates said were at odds with the internationally agreed goal of limiting global warming to below 2 degrees.
He also cited the government's expert Energy Security Board, which advised the government on its National Energy Guarantee – also using government directions which were "inconsistent with climate science".
Mr Yates lamented "ignorance" from the party's far right, which had "hijacked" the party.
"I'm saddened that the party has drifted so far away from core Liberal values," Mr Yates said, adding that many in the party shared his views.
"If the party will not reform itself from the inside then potentially it has to be reformed from the outside ... there is a meaningful option to create another party which does appear to better reflect Liberal views."
Senator Hume's joke was in reference to a stunt by Mr Morrison in February, when he brandished a lump of coal in Parliament to underscore his party's support for more power generation from the fossil fuel.
A spokeswoman for Ms Hume described the stunt as "a vote of thanks" and a "humorous gesture". She said the mock piece of coal was a rock from the senator's garden.
A spokesman for Mr Frydenberg said Australia had committed to an "ambitious but responsible target" of emissions reduction under the Paris climate accord, and was on track to meeting its second Kyoto target.
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