‘It’s better than using coal to pollute everything’: The awkward moment Tony Abbott is grilled by schoolgirls about climate change – and seems to lose the argument
- Former prime minister spoke to the pupils outside Manly Village Public School
- Girls were unhappy that Mr Abbott has backed Queensland’s Adani coalmine
- On Saturday morning Mr Abbott said he’s quietly confident about re-election
Tony Abbot was quizzed by schoolgirls on his climate change record as he canvassed for votes on election day.
The former prime minister spoke to pupils outside Manly Village Public School in his north Sydney electorate.
The youngsters made clear they were unhappy that Mr Abbott has backed Queensland’s Adani coalmine, which will be the biggest in the world and produce more emissions than whole countries such as Chile.
One asked him: ‘You say you want to do the right thing by everyone, but isn’t the right thing by everyone protecting the planet?’
On Saturday morning Mr Abbott (pictured voting) said he’s ‘not too cocky’ but quietly confident about being re-elected
Mr Abbott replied: ‘Yes, exactly. But the important thing is to do it in an intelligent way, not an unintelligent way.’
Another girl then jumped in and said: ‘By polluting the world with coal?’
Mr Abbott stuttered and dodged the question by asking the girl a question of his own.
‘Wind power – does the wind always blow? Solar power – does the sun always shine?’
One girl interrupted and said: ‘We can save solar energy.’
‘Well we can,’ said Mr Abbott. ‘But batteries are not very efficient and they are very expensive.’
The girl interrupted him again and said: ‘But it’s better than using coal to pollute everything.’
Mr Abbott tried to claim the Adani project was good because the coal will mostly be shipped to India where many people don’t have power.
Former Australian Prime Minister and member for Warringah Tony Abbott casting his vote today
Tony Abbott receives his ballot papers before voting at Forestville Public School during Election Day in Sydney
He claimed it was better for the world to have the project in Australia because Australian coal is less toxic than Indian coal.
But the girls didn’t buy his argument. One said: ‘Isn’t it better to spend money on something that is going to benefit us and isn’t going to do something bad to our planet?’
Mr Abbott also defended his record on climate change, which has been repeatedly called into question.
In a speech on London in 2017, Mr Abbott said climate change was ‘doing good’ and that the ‘so-called settled science of climate change’ was ‘absolute crap’.
On Saturday morning the former PM said he’s ‘not too cocky’ but quietly confident about being re-elected.
The former prime minister cast his vote alone at Forestville Public School in his seat of Warringah as he faces the fight of his political career.
Mr Abbott suffered a nine per cent primary vote swing against him at the 2016 election and now holds the seat with an 11 per cent margin.
But some bookies have ranked independent Zali Steggall the favourite.
Independent Warringah candidate Zali Steggall votes at North Balgowlah Public School on May 18, 2019 in Sydney, Australia
Asked by a voter whether he is going to win on Saturday, Mr Abbott said he was ‘not too cocky’ but quietly confident.
‘I’ve always been a nervous candidate,’ he told reporters after casting his vote and buying a loaf of banana bread from the school cake stall.
‘Sure, I’ve got a few butterflies doing loop-the-loops in my tummy today as well.
‘But that’s the lot of all candidates because the one thing you can never take for granted is the vote of the Australian people.’
Mr Abbott said it had been a ‘very ugly’ campaign, noting that a Liberal volunteer was allegedly attacked with a corkscrew while putting up posters in Balgowlah on Friday night.
The 31-year-old was stabbed in the stomach, causing only a minor injury. The alleged 62-year-old attacker then started tearing down banners before fleeing.
‘Lucky he wasn’t seriously hurt,’ the former Liberal leader said.
‘He’s back at his post today.’
Former prime minister and member for Warringah Tony Abbott votes at Forestville Public School on Election Day in Sydney