Young Liberals blame election defeat on climate inaction and ‘coordinated attack’ on net zero target

·3-min read
<span>Photograph: Mike Bowers/The Guardian</span>
Photograph: Mike Bowers/The Guardian

The Young Liberals have blamed “genuine inaction” on climate change and a “coordinated attack” by Coalition backbenchers opposed to net zero for the Morrison government’s defeat.

In a submission to the Liberals’ election review, the youth wing of the party found climate change was a “top election issue”, but also blamed failure to recruit women and to deliver a national integrity commission as causes for defeat.

The review, conducted by the former federal director Brian Loughnane and shadow finance minister Jane Hume, is probing the Coalition’s worst result in 70 years, in which it lost 18 seats, including six heartland Liberal seats to independents.

The Young Liberals noted the Morrison government “did have successes in climate policy”, by committing to net zero emissions by 2050, but said this fell short of action by state governments and comparable countries.

Related: More women than men voted against Morrison government in federal election, polling shows

The public perception of Coalition weakness on climate policy was “exacerbated by a coordinated public attack by some members of the government’s backbench against any action in climate policy”.

The submission cited the Nationals senator Matt Canavan declaring net zero is “dead”; Colin Boyce, now the MP for Flynn, describing it as “flexible”; and the Liberal senator Alex Antic labelling it a “slogan created by global bureaucrats and crony capitalists”.

The Young Liberals noted swings away from the Coalition in seats “directly impacted by the effects of climate change” and towards candidates advocating greater ambition, including in blue-ribbon Wentworth, North Sydney, Kooyong, Goldstein, Mackellar and Curtin.

“Liberal state governments have effectively neutralised the issue of climate and have successfully changed the narrative around climate to a core Liberal strength of the economy and job creation,” they said, citing the New South Wales and Tasmanian governments’ “proactive stances”.

The Morrison government, by contrast, “appeared weak and in many cases ‘dragged kicking and screaming’ to arrive at this point”.

Related: Albanese declares Coalition ‘stuck in time’ after Labor’s climate bill passes lower house

On Tuesday the Liberal party resolved to oppose Labor’s legislation for a 43% emissions reduction by 2030, leading the prime minister, Anthony Albanese, to accuse the party of being “stuck in time while the world warms around it”.

The Young Liberals said the party had “failed to attract, retain and promote women”, fielding fewer women candidates at the 2022 election than in 2019.

“While the Liberal party has set targets to achieve 50% female elected members of parliament by 2025, the party has no national plan or strategy to attract, retain and promote women,” they said.

The submission proposed, following the UK Conservative party’s lead, an A-list of candidates to be considered for target and incumbent seats to include at least 50% women.

The Young Liberals noted the Morrison government “broke its promise to deliver a federal integrity commission which attracted significant backlash in Liberal held-electorates”.

The failure “was used effectively by opposition parties and candidates to undermine the effectiveness of our elected members” – particularly by the teal independents.

The submission said the campaign “failed to activate party members, and non-member supporters to volunteer for our elected members and candidates”.

“The disenfranchisement of members was most significant within the NSW division of the Liberal party, following its failed preselection process.”

In NSW delays in preselection blamed on Scott Morrison ally Alex Hawke prompted last-minute intervention, allowing a three-person committee including Morrison and the NSW premier, Dominic Perrottet, to select candidates.

Morrison defended the intervention as necessary to select female candidates, including to protect the now deputy leader, Sussan Ley, from a preselection challenge.

One of the candidates selected, Katherine Deves, attracted weeks of negative headlines for her stance to exclude trans women from women’s sport.

“Debate around transgender sports participation and religious discrimination was a distraction for the campaign, and created unnecessary division within the Liberal party,” the submission found.