SYDNEY (Reuters) -Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese says his government will introduce 18 pieces of legislation when the new parliament sits this week for the first time since Labor won office, amid worsening economic conditions and with climate change in focus.
Labor won a general election in May, ending nine years of conservative rule.
Albanese pledged to “break Australia out of the inertia that the former government was stuck in” and “change the tone of politics” when he addressed Labor lawmakers on Monday, a day before parliament sits in Canberra.
Labor’s pledge to set a more ambitious emissions reduction target of 43% by 2030 had made an “enormous difference” in trade, economic and security meetings with foreign counterparts since May, he said.
“Climate change is a national security issue, that is well understood throughout the world but nowhere more so than with our Pacific neighbours,” he said.
To pass legislation for its climate change target, Labor needs to negotiate with independent and Greens lawmakers who hold the balance of power in the upper house.
Sixteen independents and Greens were elected to the lower House of Representatives, including eight so-called Teal independents who won Liberal party seats by making climate change a priority.
The role of the Greens, which hold 12 seats in the Senate, will be more pivotal in passing legislation through the upper house.
Greens leader Adam Bandt said he is negotiating with the government over the climate change bill, and wants wording changed so that 43% is a floor and not a ceiling for emissions reduction.
The Greens have also called for an end to new coal and gas projects, which Labor says it cannot support. Coal prices surged to make it Australia’s most valuable export in May.
Bandt said the Greens wanted to “improve and pass this bill”.
The independent senator for the Australian Capital Territory, former football star David Pocock, says he will balance the community’s desire for concrete progress on climate action with the ambition for bigger cuts.
“We need certainty for investment and for our community, and actually get on the path of being good international citizens,” he told ABC radio.
The new cross-bench politicians want to make their first speeches to parliament before speaking on the climate change bill, which may delay its introduction, a Greens official said.
Albanese said his government would introduce at least 18 pieces of legislation, including aged care reforms.
Treasurer Jim Chalmers said last week the economic picture would be “confronting” as the government prepares to release updated economic forecasts to parliament on July 28 to account for faster inflation and rising interest rates.
Albanese said “a trillion dollars of debt” it had inherited from the Liberal government was “a real challenge” as the population faced cost of living pressure.
(Reporting by Kirsty Needham in Sydney; Editing by Robert Birsel)