Previously NEGative, Shorten attacked for reviving dead policy
The architect of the national energy guarantee, Treasurer Josh Frydenberg, has attacked Bill Shorten for considering adopting the Turnbull government’s signature energy policy declared “dead” by Scott Morrison in the first weeks of his prime ministership.
Mr Frydenberg, who last week said he was “disappointed” the NEG was killed off, said the Opposition Leader was only interested in playing politics on the issue of energy in refusing to support the policy when he was energy minister. He said Labor’s 45 per cent emissions reduction target, compared to the 26 per cent under Mr Frydenberg’s NEG model, would be “economy wrecking” and lead to the early closure of coal-fired power stations.
“It’s typical of Bill Shorten that one minute he is calling the NEG a ‘Frankenstein’s monster of a policy’ and the next minute he wants to embrace it,” Mr Frydenberg said. “He was never genuine about lower power bills but only interested in the politics of the issue. Dictated to by the green-left flank of his party, Bill Shorten’s energy policy is a recipe for only one thing, higher power bills.”
Mr Shorten yesterday accused the Liberal Party of being captured by “climate denialists” as he confirmed Labor was prepared to adopt a similar policy to the NEG.
“That’s not our final position, I hasten to add, and we’ll have consultation and discussion with my colleagues. But I think people are sick and tired of the climate change wars. The climate denialists, for all intents and purposes Tony Abbott, have taken over the Liberal Party,” he told the ABC.
Government MPs who were vocally supportive of the NEG, and fought resistance to the policy from conservative colleagues, yesterday claimed they will have no problem waging war on energy policy against Mr Shorten if Labor adopts the same framework.
Liberal MP Trent Zimmerman said Labor’s higher emissions reduction targets made it a different policy to the one he had strongly supported when Malcolm Turnbull was prime minister.
Mr Zimmerman, who stared down conservative critics of the policy in June and warned it would be a “mistake” for the government to be seen as not acting on climate change, yesterday said he was happy with Mr Morrison’s position on energy policy.
The NSW moderate powerbro- ker said the Prime Minister remained committed to the ambitions of the Turnbull government’s energy policy: reducing prices, improving reliability and meeting the Paris targets.
“I am strongly supporting the continued efforts of the Coalition government to achieve those goals,” Mr Zimmerman said.
He said Labor would have “one massive difference” if it adopted the NEG because it would legislate “My job before I go to cabinet is to assess the whole suite of climate policies and assess what they are adding and what can be improved,” Ms Price said.
The Coalition’s climate policies have been embroiled in controversy over negotiations for a national energy guarantee. By splitting the environment and energy portfolios, Scott Morrison has allowed Energy Minister Angus Taylor to focus on reducing electricity prices. This could put more pressure on the land sector to meet the government’s Paris target of 26 to 28 per cent below 2005 levels by 2030.
Ms Price said she was confident the target would be met. Australia’s total emissions last year were 540 million tonnes. More than 60 million tonnes came from the land sector and 191 million from electricity. A report by ClimateWorks said land sector emissions were rising after sustained falls. It estimated potential savings from land use of more than 100 million tonnes, enough to meet the 2030 Paris target for the whole economy.
Ms Price is expected to attend climate change talks in Poland in December where a rule book for the Paris Agreement must be finalised.
Australia has been criticised for helping the US, Japan and EU stall negotiations over a promised $US100bn a year fund for developing countries from 2020. or regulate an “economy destroying” emissions target of 45 per cent, compared to 26 per cent under Mr Turnbull’s policy.
“I have no difficulty in attacking a policy that has such a ridiculous target included in it,” he said.
Victorian MP Tim Wilson said the NEG was only ever supposed to be a “transition policy”. “The NEG was a transition policy to deliver reliability in an electricity market in adjustment,” he said.