Barnaby Joyce has told a clean energy summit that coal is crucial to Australia’s energy policy, saying the government has “a moral responsibility” to provide the world with the energy from exported fossil fuels.
Speaking in Sydney on Tuesday, the Nationals leader met Bill Shorten’s offer of bipartisanship around a clean energy target with his own call for compromise.
Shorten had told the same conference that morning that Labor wanted to find common ground with the Coalition and and pass the Finkel review’s central recommendation of a target without “brawling and name-calling”.
Joyce said he was open to discussion but did not back down from his earlier statements that any clean energy target had to include some kind of coal generation.
“We need our colleagues in the Labor party to come to a bipartisan position that will see the further construction of wind and solar and pump-hydro but also of efficient, coal-fired power,” he said.
“As one of the large exporters of coal we have a moral responsibility to provide to the world the technology that provides the greatest unit of outcome from one unit of coal, or one unit of gas. To step away from them and say we just don’t believe in that form of power any more is oxymoronic to our purpose of earning money.”
Labor has previously ruled out the inclusion of high-efficiency coal in the clean energy target but Shorten said on Tuesday that Labor would back a proposal “if the economic and environmental case stacks up”.
On Friday, 49 of the 50 recommendations from Finkel’s review were approved by the states’ energy ministers during a meeting with the federal energy minister, Josh Frydenberg.
But the central recommendation, a new clean energy target, is still being discussed by the Turnbull government. The Nationals’ position is crucial to the government’s decision.
On Tuesday, Joyce echoed Shorten’s calls for compromise among the major parties so that clean energy investors had some form of certainty.
“What is important is that we get to some form of resolution and conclusion. All parties will have to move – the National party, the Liberal party in sections, the Labor party, the Greens if any of them are left.
“We have to nail this down so we have confidence in the marketplace, whether it’s photovoltaic, whether it’s wind, whether it’s low-emissions, high-efficiency coal.”
While the federal government has been deliberating, Labor states have been pushing ahead with the possibility of implementing a clean energy target at the state level.
Queensland, Victoria, South Australia and the Australian Capital Territory last week asked the Australian Energy Markets Commission to do further analysis on whether a target could be unilaterally set up by the states themselves.
But, speaking at the clean energy summit on Tuesday, the New South Wales energy minister, Don Harwin, told the states to ease up on Frydenberg.
“Having only had the report for one month, the federal government needs more time,” he said. “It is hypocritical to say you want to take the politics out of energy but to try and wedge the federal government.
“We need credible policy but it doesn’t need to be perfect and we can’t let the perfect overlook the good.”
Harwin also took aim at Shorten’s speech, saying the NSW Liberal government was “the real sensible centre of energy policy”.