NSW energy minister Matt Kean has reneged on a plan to appoint former prime minister Malcolm Turnbull to chair a newly created net-zero emissions and clean economy advisory board, following pressure from within the ranks of the Berejiklian government.
The cancellation of Turnbull’s appointment follows comments from the former prime minister suggesting that there should be a halt on new coal mine developments in the state.
In a statement published on Tuesday morning, Kean said it was important that the state government’s work towards zero net emissions needed to be above “personality”.
“The purpose of the Net Zero Emissions and Clean Economy Board is to create jobs in low carbon industries and see the State reduce its emissions in ways that grow the economy,” Kean said.
“It is important that the focus is on achieving these outcomes, based on facts, technology, science, and economics.
“The focus should not be on personality.”
It appears Turnbull has been sidelined from the net-zero emissions advisory board after speaking out about the need to halt the development of new coal mines in New South Wales – a suggestion that one might think is reasonably consistent with any plan to reach zero net emissions.
“However, no person’s role on the Board should distract from achieving results for the NSW people or from the government’s work in delivering jobs and opportunities for the people of NSW,” Kean’s statement added.
“For this reason, I have decided not to proceed with [Malcolm Turnbull’s] appointment as chair.”
The high-profile appointment of Turnbull to the chair of the advisory board would have seen the former prime minister, turned advocate for an accelerated transition to zero net emissions, guide the NSW government’s investments in new low emissions development.
However, the appointment appears to have caused consternation from within the NSW Liberal-National coalition, with coal-friendly members of the NSW Nationals moving quickly to pressure Kean to back down from the appointment.
NSW Nationals leader and deputy premier John Barilaro, revealed on Tuesday morning that Kean would not be proceeding with the appointment of Turnbull to the chair of the net zero advisory board.
Barilaro said that concerns had been raised following Turnbull’s call for a halt on new coal mine developments and a review of the rehabilitation costs of New South Wales’ existing coal mines, just days after the announcement of his appointment as chair of the advisory board.
“He pulled my pants down within 48 of his appointment on an area that I take seriously,” Barilaro told 2GB radio.
Barilaro said that he supported plans for an expanded coal mining industry in New South Wales, and that this was the wider position of the NSW government.
“For someone to be appointed in a government role, and not to understand the passion and the policy position of the government, that in itself shows that they are thick-headed and and they aren’t interested in what is right and good for the economy.”
Barilaro had initially voted in support of Turnbull’s appointment.
NSW premier Gladys Berejiklian told a media conference on Tuesday that while she had a lot of respect for the former prime minister, she agreed that Turnbull’s appointment was proving to be a “distraction”.
Reacting to the news, Turnbull blamed a concerted campaign by Murdoch owned newspapers against his appointment, describing it as a “vendetta”.
“Its goal was to bully the state government into not appointing me chair of this net zero board,” Turnbull told ABC Radio Sydney.
The cancellation of Turnbull’s appointment comes just days after Barilaro attended a rugby league match in Newcastle as a guest of the NSW Minerals Council, along with pro-coal Labor agitator Joel Fitzgibbon and One Nation’s NSW leader Mark Latham.
The NSW Chief Scientist and Engineer will serve as the acting chair until a new appointment is announced.