Coalition MPs play down energy debate

Federal government MPs insist they’re sensibly working through discussions on changes to climate and energy policy, rejecting claims of a showdown behind closed doors.


A coalition party room meeting had to be extended into Tuesday evening to debate a report by Chief Scientist Alan Finkel which, amongst other recommendations for the nation’s electricity system, proposes a clean energy target.

Nationals MP Mark Coulton was angered to see reports based on leaks by “some pissant”.

“The reports … are simplistic and do not really relate the burden of responsibility that the coalition is carrying on their shoulders at the moment,” he told reporters in Canberra on Wednesday.

Mr Coulton said it was wrong to portray MPs as either being “for Finkel, or against Finkel”.

Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce said the various views would be used to prepare a submission to cabinet, and then return to the party room.

“That’s how a proper democratic process should work,” he said.

Mr Joyce insisted the party hears the need for affordable power.

“We don’t have that titanic religious position the Labor Party has where you can’t mention the word coal.”

Junior minister Zed Seselja labelled the discussion a “very healthy debate” focusing on lower energy costs, energy security, and meeting emission reduction targets.

Liberal MP Jane Prentice raised the need to consider nuclear power.

Labor senator Anthony Chisholm said coalition MPs were was fighting among themselves while Australian families were missing out.

“The Abbott-Turnbull wars are back,” he told reporters.

Senator Chisholm pointed to the reported tense exchange between former prime minister Tony Abbott and Liberal frontbencher Craig Laundy after the meeting.

“It shows that this is not business as usual,” he said. “They are absolutely at war over the Finkel report and the tragedy is that the Australian people are the losers from it.”

Greens MP Adam Bandt said the government should cut loose Mr Abbott and fellow climate change deniers.

“I am sick of this parliament wasting so much time trying to devise a climate policy just aimed at keeping Tony Abbott happy,” he said.