Resistance from right wing Liberal Party powerbrokers threatens the future of Malcolm Turnbull’s Clean Energy Target, with ministers reportedly demanding the PM add ‘clean coal’ and nuclear options to the low emissions scheme.
Concerns over the cost of energy under the CET – which was outlined by Turnbull last week ahead of the release of chief scientist Alan Finkel’s energy market review last Friday – has reportedly led to a major backlash from Turnbull’s back-benchers during party meetings this week.
And like so often with proposed climate policies in recent memory, the PM’s job could be at stake if he doesn’t bow down to his own party’s demands.
An anonymous Liberal MP reportedly told The Australian, “Malcolm could lose his leadership over this if he doesn’t listen to us,” an assertion rejected by finance minister Mathias Cormann, who told ABC: “No, not at all, and yesterday what the prime minister did was precisely that, he was listening.”
Energy minister Josh Frydenberg reflected on the conflict on ABC Radio on Wednesday, saying many Coalition MPs believe the CET, in its current format, will push up power bills for businesses and households.
“Their primary concern and the feedback from their electorates is that businesses and households are doing it very tough when it comes to electricity prices and they want to be certain that prices will be lower under any policy that we proposed and followed through with,” Frydenberg said.
MPs, reportedly led by the former PM Turnbull usurped, Tony Abbott, are pressuring Turnbull to include lower-than-usual-emitting coal solutions, like HELE and CCS, to be included into the low emissions target quota introduced by the proposed scheme.
But such an allowance would essentially betray the scheme’s ideals, which are to promote a transition to renewable energy.
Right wing columnist Andrew Bolt addressed the issue in his Wednesday morning blog, saying the Turnbull Government “is destroying itself” over the debate.
“The Liberal party room must water [the CET] down – if not block it,” Bolt wrote. “Turnbull will then fight Labor with a compromise on his own green beliefs. He will fight having already conceded the argument to Labor. The Left will jeer him as a man of no conviction. Conservatives will not trust him either.”
Bolt, who is in sync with elements of the Coalition’s right wing, went on to say the CET is “Labor’s agenda,” which Turnbull will promise “to deliver … better”.
“No convictions, no guts, no hope of true reform. And an electricity system that will crumble,” the polarising blogger added.