Interview on Weekend Breakfast, ABC News

Jeremy Fernandez and Johanna Nicholson
NSW Liberal pre-selections, International Panel on Climate Change report

JEREMY FERNANDEZ: So as we wait for the election date to be announced, the government has been caught up in factional preselection battles. But the way is now clear in the Prime Minister to call an election after the High Court refused to hear a challenge to the endorsement of Liberal candidates in New South Wales, including Ministers Alex Hawke and Sussan Ley.

JOHANNA NICHOLSON: Now, the saga has drawn attention to internal conflicts within the party, and for more, we're joined now by Liberal MP Tim Wilson. Tim Wilson, good to have you back on the program again.

TIM WILSON: Thanks for having me.

JOHANNA NICHOLSON: This mess – there is some clear air now that we've had this verdict from the High Court, but this has exposed a fair bit of disunity within the Liberals.

TIM WILSON: I just think it's a distraction. The reality is there's always a lively debate in the Liberal Party about preselected candidates. There's a simple reason – we're a party where there's a diversity of views united by common values. And the Labor Party, I mean, they impose solutions always on the top. We've had some challenges around making sure things are done within a timeframe to make sure that we can be campaign ready, and that's exactly where we are now. And, you know, obviously, we're all waiting for the Prime Minister to pull the starting gun, or fire the starting gun. But all the candidates are capable, ready and will be the best representatives for their community.

JOHANNA NICHOLSON: But usually these disputes are resolved way before an election. This close to an election, is your team unified?

TIM WILSON: Absolutely, because in the end, it's a pathway about who's the best choice to confront the challenges of Australia. We live in very uncertain times, and there's no doubt that the importance of re-electing the government to steer us through those uncertain times is going to be critical. You look at the national security challenges Australia faces, the Liberal team is united behind confronting those challenges head-on as a confident Australia.

You look at the economic challenges, including the risk of rising inflation and interest rates and what that's going to mean for Australian households and cost of living pressures, and the Liberal team is united and focusing on those challenges. At every point, our focus is on making sure we deliver for Australians rather than the internal conversations that, politely, some of the media want to obsess about rather than actually what we're going to do for the country.

JOHANNA NICHOLSON: Well, it's also been those within your own side of politics. You know, there hasn't been much clear air from criticism directed towards the Prime Minister from within the Liberal Party, calling him a ruthless bully, menacing, with no moral compass. I mean, that's the message from your party getting through to voters.

TIM WILSON: Well, there will always be people who have differences of opinion in politics. That's what happens when you do things -  when you get on the front foot and you focus on how you're going to improve the country. You look at that in comparison to the vacuum and vortex of the opposition where, to be fair, it's very hard to criticise them because they've literally done nothing for the past three years and it's not clear what it is they do in government.

We live in deeply uncertain times, and what we need is clarity and stability, and that's where the government's focus is and will continue to be.

JOHANNA NICHOLSON: We had this week, Tim Wilson, another damning report from the United Nations – the International Panel on Climate Change urging quick and drastic action and a reduction in global greenhouse emissions. The government's policies are not quick or drastic at this stage. Will you look to change that given the dire predictions being presented to us?

TIM WILSON: Well, if you actually look at the introduction to the report and what was said at its launch, one of their most scathing criticisms was the hypocrisy of countries that talk big but don't deliver. Australia has the complete reverse position, which is to make sure that we focus on delivery. We make commitments we can meet and, in fact, the track record is that we're not just meeting them – we're beating them. We have a 26 to 28 per cent target by the end of the decade. We're currently projected to meet 35 per cent emissions reduction by 2030.

Only earlier this week we introduced or passed a process to establish an Australia offshore wind industry so we can build Australia's clean industrial future, which creates jobs and puts downward pressure on electricity prices. So we're getting on with it. The criticisms are many other countries who simply talk the talk but don't walk the walk, as we do. And it's time they started to follow our lead.

JOHANNA NICHOLSON: But there are urgent calls for more ambitious 2030 targets that Australia continues to resist. If what you say is right – that we are meeting and beating – then why not be more ambitious with those targets?

TIM WILSON: Because targets, frankly, are yesterday's conversation. Our focus is on what we're going to do to deliver not just on these targets but our long-term targets towards net-zero by 2050. Some of the stinging criticism has been of other criticisms who talk big but don't deliver. Look at only last year the UK government was running around the world telling everybody how they had to commit to more ambitious targets. They're now asking for wriggle room and backsliding on their commitments of net zero by 2050 – not near targets but long-term targets. China still hasn't even committed to net-zero by 2050. So that's the fundamental difference – those who talk the talk and those who walk the walk, and we're in the walk the walk category.

JOHANNA NICHOLSON: Tim Wilson, we've run out of time. Thanks for your time this morning.

TIM WILSON: Thanks for having me.