“I am not afraid to say the c-word, coal, coal, coal,” so says National deputy leader Bridget McKenzie.
Really, that’s what she said – appearing with other National Party leaders at a media conference that combined their professed concerns about the drought afflicting Australian farmers, and their embrace of the prime minister’s decision to ditch emissions targets from the National Energy Guarantee.
At a conference that also featured Nationals leader Michael McCormack, Resources minister Matt Canavan and agriculture leader David Littleproud, McKenzie said she was proud of a government that champions coal.
“It’s going to be one of those areas that we are going to invest in,” McKenzie said. “It’s not going anywhere in the short term.”
Turnbull, facing a party revolt and the potential loss of his job as numbers grow in support of home affairs minister Peter Dutton, on Monday announced he would put the emissions component of the NEG on hold “until can be voted on”, and ask energy minister Josh Frydenberg to push ahead on reliability only.
He also announced plans to embrace the ACCC recommendation for new dispatchable generation and to frame it in a way that would result in a new coal-fired generator.
And to top this off, the Coalition is also speaking of financing the refurbishment of existing coal-fired generators, to ensure they stay on line, and to force the sale of those assets companies like AGL are threatening to close.
“We back him 100 per cent,” said McCormack said in relation to coal entrepreneur Trevor St Baker’s interest in building a new coal-fired generator.
Up north, where a new solar farm has been opened – one that will bring costs down to the region’s biggest employer and energy consumer, and underwrite a potential $300 million expansion of the zinc refinery – Dawson MP George Christensen wrote:
Actually, it’s not, it’s insanity. Even the proposed “price caps” on utility bills are likely to rebound in the face of the politicians supporting it, because analysts say it will mean reduced discounts for most consumers – and so higher, not lower, prices – and less competition.
That, though, will be coal comfort for the Nationals.