Taylor waves big stick again, but energy industry fears same old mistakes

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Angus Taylor wields “big stick” again, but finds himself heading for a new round of climate policy wars, with industry and with Labor.

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Credit: AAP/DEAN LEWINS
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Angus Taylor, the returning energy minister and newly minted emissions reduction minister, has sought to flex his authority on energy and climate policy, seeking to pressure both Labor and industry groups to fall into line behind the Coalition’s emissions reduction targets and energy policies.

Taylor – in a series of interviews with the Murdoch media – has already raised the potential of reviving the Coalition’s ‘big stick’ energy policy, whose ultimate threat is to break up energy companies that are perceived to hold too much market power and not wilting to the government’s demands.

And he has sought to brow-beat Labor into lowering their own emissions targets and renewable energy ambitions, despite the fact that Labor’s demonised 50 per cent renewables target would be easily met on a “business as usual” basis, according to new analysis by Reputex.

“It is our policy, we took it to the election, it has been through the party room, and it has been introduced to parliament,” Taylor said of the “big stick” policy in an interview with The Australian.

Industry baulked at the idea of the Federal government having such powers before the election, and still thinks the ‘big stick’ energy policy is a bad idea, calling on the government to instead deliver an effective, stable, policy for supporting new investment to come to the market.

“If it’s designed to actually break-up energy companies, I just don’t think that’s the way to go about bringing about lower prices for customers,” Origin Energy chief Frank Calabria told an APPEA conference.

“We can continue to discuss what we prefer but if the reality is it [the NEG] is off the table, then we will work with government on how we bring reliability obligations and emissions reduction together.”

Reputex also pointed to the potential of soaring wholesale prices over the medium to long term without a coherent energy and climate policy.

The head of the Australian Industry Group, Innes Wilcox, has also called on the Morrison government to get on with the job of implementing an effective energy policy, seeing benefits in a consistent, nation-wide, policy rather than leaving it to the States to develop their own separate initiatives.

“Another imperative for the next Government is to develop credible, durable and well-integrated climate and energy policies. Wilcox said in a statement after the election” Wilcox said in a statement.

“If we continue with a succession of rapidly reversed policies or no policy at all, at best we will see a costly patchwork of state and localised interventions, and at worst we will see our current energy disadvantage cemented and a receding ability to meet our emissions targets.“ Wilcox added.

Throughout the development of the Coalition’s energy policy, which culminated in the development of the National Energy Guarantee, industry groups, including those representing energy companies, investors and major industries, had called for an effective policy with strong emissions reductions targets.

However, after the low-ball NEG was shelved following Malcolm Turnbull’s failure to unify his party around the policy, industry has been relatively silent, and made little by way of an intervention during the election campaign to call for parties to put forward ambitious climate policies.

It seems industry sees their best chance of getting the policy that they want remains with a Coalition government, but not necessarily with the policies that the Coalition, through Taylor, is currently pushing.

Taylor told Sky News earlier this week that Labor should buckle on its targets, but wewly appointed Labor leader, Anthony Albanese has been cautious in terms of signalling any change in targets, even if Labor might undertake a more substantive re-evaluation of its policy mechanisms following the surprise election loss.

Albanese certainly had no interest in following the advice of former Queensland LNP premier Campbell Newman, who called on Labor to back the coal industry. Albanese took to Twitter to rebuff Newman’s advice, citing the Newman’s own woeful electoral record.

Albanese is expected to reveal his shadow ministry in coming days, with a shake up of some senior positions expected as a result of both fractional manoeuvring and anticipated fall out from Labor’s poor showing at the election.

It is expected that Albanese will look to reshape his ‘economic team’ with the appointment of fresh faces to the treasury and finance shadow portfolios, after Labor’s failure to sell its tax changes to the electorate. Of interest will be if Mark Butler retains his position as shadow minister for climate change and energy.

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