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MP Zali Steggall stares down Liberal attacks

zali steggall climate independents
"We have not progressed our climate policy since Tony Abbott," Zali Steggall says. Photo: AAP
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Independent MP Zali Steggall has stared down attacks from the Prime Minister and moderate Liberals, calling them ineffective and out of touch.

Most of the independents challenging the incumbent Liberal MPs at the looming federal election are running on a pro-climate action platform and pushing for an integrity commission, saying the Commonwealth hasn’t done enough on either issue.

On Wednesday, the Warringah MP chastised progressive Liberals such as Dave Sharma, Trent Zimmerman, Jason Falinski and Tim Wilson who defend the government’s climate record and position themselves as a voice for change within the party.

“They are entirely ineffective. We have not progressed our climate policy since [former prime minister] Tony Abbott,” Ms Steggall said.

Mr Sharma has publicly pushed for the government to adopt a more ambitious mid-term emissions reduction goal, calling for a new target of a 40 to 45 per cent reduction by 2035.

But Ms Steggall said the Liberal MP for Wentworth had numerous opportunities to stand up for his convictions and vote in favour of a more ambitious target, following the path of his more conservative colleagues who have withheld votes over issues such as vaccine mandates.

“It’s convenient to say they are fighting in the party room when what happens in the party room isn’t public,” she said.

“Now they are under pressure they come out with all this talk.”

Coalition MPs have also tried to frame the independent movement as pro-Labor, saying the movement is targeting only Liberal seats.

Liberal federal director Andrew Hirst questioned, in an email asking party members for donations, why no high-profile independents were taking on Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese.

Ms Steggall said socially progressive voters in traditionally Liberal-held seats had nowhere to turn, which was why independents were picking up the slack.

“If you are in traditionally Labor-held seats and want more climate action you can vote for the Greens,” she said.

“In a traditionally Liberal-held seat where the Greens’ economic policy doesn’t appeal, there is no sensible centre option for fiscally conservative voters.”

Ms Steggall also labelled critiques of her voting record as misleading as Coalition MPs push the line that she’s sided with Labor two-thirds of the time.

The tally includes votes against gag orders where the government attempts to shut down debate or prevent a member being heard in parliament – a measure Ms Steggall said she always voted against.

Further, there are some votes where the government and Labor team up – and the cross bench are the only dissenting voices are not officially recorded.

With an election due by May 2022 and the possibility of a hung parliament, it’s likely the major parties will need to turn to independents to form government.

Tasmanian MP Andrew Wilkie has already ruled out a formal agreement with either side. Asked her position on formal governing agreements, Ms Steggall didn’t rule anything in or out, saying she would consult with her electorate in the result of a hung parliament.

“[But] I’m not interested in being a kingmaker or a queenmaker,” she said.

-AAP