Government baulks at Nats’ pro-coal power play

Queensland coal rebel MPs were moving to back a plan to make it easier for the government to invest cash into coal-fired power stations when the Bill was pulled from the agenda.

The proposal developed by Senator Matt Canavan and moved by Barnaby Joyce would have hijacked a bill on the Clean Energy Finance Corporation, intended to create a $1 billion grid reliability fund, to also allow the investment body to fund high-energy low-emissions coal-fired power stations.

It is understood about five government MPs were planning to back the move, including Wide Bay MP Llew O'Brien.

Wide Bay MP Llew O'Brien says he would support the move to allow the CEFC invest in coal-fired power stations. Picture: Matt Collins
Wide Bay MP Llew O'Brien says he would support the move to allow the CEFC invest in coal-fired power stations. Picture: Matt Collins

Some government sources suggest the CEFC bill was pulled from the agenda - potentially until May but no specific date has been put - to avoid embarrassment of government MPs crossing the floor to support the motion.

But a spokesman for Energy Minister Angus Taylor said the government needed to time to consider Mr Joyce's amendment and there were other programs allowing investment in coal.

It is the latest move from National party aligned MPs pushing back against the Liberals on coal and net-zero emissions.

Liberal MP Craig Kelly had also voiced support for the amendment.

The original CEFC bill was to create a $1 billion fund to improve grid reliability through investment in transmission technology.

Mr Joyce's amendment sought to lower the threshold for the CEFC to invest in an energy project from a 50 per cent reduction in emissions to a 20 per cent reduction, which would effectively open it up to HELE coal-fired power.

Mr O'Brien said he had made his support for the amendment clear and he planned to vote if it comes back to parliament.

"Our great strength in terms of resources and energy in this nation is coal," he said.

"I want to see coal used for generations to come. Making it lower emitting is a good thing to do."

Senator Canavan said he raised the issue in the Coalition party room meeting, saying the CEFC should be technology neutral.

"I'm willing to discuss with the government the way forward to allow more flexibility in investment," he said.

Other Queensland government MPs are understood to be among the five who were considering supporting Mr Joyce's amendment.

Energy Minister Angus Taylor says there are other programs available to support coal projects. Picture: Sean Davey.
Energy Minister Angus Taylor says there are other programs available to support coal projects. Picture: Sean Davey.

Mr Taylor's spokesman said the government remained committed to establishing the $1 billion grid reliability fund.

"This is the first time we have seen this amendment. It is important that we take an opportunity to consider what has been put forward," he said.

"The Government has other programs available to it such as (Underwriting New Energy Investments program) to support coal projects, and is supporting a feasibility study into a HELE coal project in Queensland.

"This is in stark contrast to Labor who have walked away from Australian workers in the coal sector."

The Federal Government has investment $3 million into a feasibility study for the proposed Collinsville coal-fired power station in Queensland, but Prime Minister Scott Morrison has been hesitant to make further commitments until after the results of the study come back.

The grid reliability fund was not opposed in the Coalition party room when it was discussed on Tuesday.

 

 

 

 

 

Originally published as Government baulks at Nats' pro-coal power play


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