Coalition scuppers Greens, Labor efforts to block new coal

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Greens-led, Labor-backed effort to block Coalition from underwriting coal-fired generation in Australia narrowly defeated in Parliament.

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A Greens-led and Labor-backed effort to block the Coalition from using taxpayer funds to bolster coal-fired generation in Australia has been narrowly defeated in Parliament, after Coalition moderates linked arms with the hard right in support of the controversial plan.

Parliament voted on Wednesday on a bill introduced by Australian Greens MP Adam Bandt on Monday – legislation that would prevent Australian governments from providing financial assistance for building, refurbishing, or buying coal-fired power stations.

The Coal-Fired Power Funding Prohibition Bill 2018, which Bandt said “should not be necessary,” was drafted by the Greens to be wide enough to prevent the government using any of the mechanisms outlined in its “Underwriting new generation investments” consultation paper.

“We need to urgently pass this legislation to prevent the government from signing contracts over summer to build new coal-fired power,” Bandt told the House of Representatives in Canberra on Monday.

“It isn’t just environmentally irresponsible … it is economically reckless. …The taxpayer will be left paying for stranded assets and compensating big polluters.”

Labor seemed to agree, and by Tuesday had thrown its support behind the Greens. But in a vote at around midday on Wednesday, the two parties fell short of the absolute majority needed to pass such motions, at just 73-72 in favour.

This means that, despite the “will of the people”, the Coalition gets to carry on with its whacky plan to keep the coal plants burning beyond the point that almost anyone in the industry thinks would be smart, or even warranted.

As Bandt put it on Monday, “The Energy Market Operator has a plan for this transition, following the blueprint set out by the Chief Scientist, and there is no role for new coal-fired power plants or extending existing coal-fired power plants in this plan.”

And while it is unlikely the Coalition will find anyone willing to build a new coal plant – even with a financial leg-up – the option remains for the underwriting of existing coal plants, like Vales Point in New South Wales, to keep them open beyond their scheduled lives.

Here’s how your pollies voted:

Sophie Vorrath

Sophie is editor of OneStepOffTheGrid.com.au and deputy editor of its sister site, RenewEconomy.com.au. Sophie has been writing about clean energy for more than a decade.

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