The former head of the Clean Energy Finance Corp, Oliver Yates, says he was ejected from a Liberal Party fund-raising event in Melbourne after loudly objecting to the presentation of a lump of brown coal to the federal Treasurer Scott Morrison.
Morrison famously brandished a lump of black coal in Question Time earlier this year, taunting the Labor Party that they were afraid of coal.
It was just days after a significant blackout in South Australia, an event the Coalition (wrongly) blamed on renewable energy. “This is coal … don’t be afraid,” Morrison said, triumphantly brandishing the lump of coal that had reportedly been supplied by the Minerals Council of Australia.
Morrison’s gesture shocked many – not least the Labor Party and the South Australian state government – and commentators wondered “what fresh idiocy is this”. The Liberal Party, on the other hand, thought it was a hoot.
On Thursday, at a fund-raiser at the GlassHouse in Melbourne, attended by several hundred people, the dose was repeated.
Yates said Senator Jane Hume – whom he had been sitting next to – went to the stage and offered the lump of brown coal as a gesture of appreciation from the Victorian Liberal Party to Morrison, and to applaud the fact that he had brandished his own lump of coal in parliament.
Victoria’s big coal generators burn only brown coal, which are significantly more polluting than the black coal burned in NSW (and Queensland and Western Australia).
It was well timed, as the state’s biggest brown coal generator, Loy Yang A, lost one of its four major units this week and may be offline for weeks. So much for reliability, but at least it meant there was a spare lump of coal for the Liberal Party to wrap up as presents.
Yates told RenewEconomy he was horrified by the gesture and loudly objected, at which point he was asked to leave the event.
“It’s pathetic. What are they thinking?” Yates said.
“We do not need to tolerate this and we should not have to tolerate this. How completely out of touch are they to believe that as Liberal Party members that we do not care for the environment or our future.
“They are knowingly stoking the fires of the destruction (of our planet) …. they are on the wrong side of history,” he said, before adding that his father, the former Liberal MP William Yates would “turn in his grave.”
Yates, a Liberal Party member, said he was minded to create a “Liberal Environment party.” I think the first seat I am going to target is (federal environment and energy minister) Josh Frydenberg’s seat (Kooyong), because that is where I live.”
Yates served for five years as CEO of the $10 billion CEFC, which provides low-cost financing to wind and solar farms, energy efficiency initiatives, and other projects encompassing renewable energy technologies, battery storage, electric vehicles and other renewable energy technologies.
He has since become involved in several other projects, including a plan to develop a Tasmania wind farm, and to create a company – the Clean Energy Derivatives Corporation – that would offer contracts and finance to new wind and solar projects.
Hume, like Yates, is a former investment banker (she worked with Deutsche Bank and Rothschild) and was elected to the Senate in 2016 and chairs the Senate Standing Committee on Economics.
Her Twitter account and tweets suggest Hume is a fan of right-wing commentators such as Spectator Editor Rowan Dean, and Institute of Public Affairs fellows Chris Berg and Sinclair Davidson, whom she describes as “two of my favourite clever people.”