Turnbull’s Energy Policy Secures Partyroom Approval After ‘Good Debate’

August 15, 2018 Updated: August 19, 2018

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has garnered support for his energy policy following a Coalition partyroom meeting held on Aug. 14.

Turnbull addressed the press to say that after a “good debate,” the proposed policy and legislation changes packaged in the National Energy Guarantee (NEG), including a move to legislate the Paris CO2 emissions target of 26 percent, had received “overwhelming support” from both Liberal and National MPs.

The Paris target would mean a “50-52 percent reduction in emissions per capita and a 64-65 percent reduction in the emissions intensity of the economy between 2005 and 2030,” according to the Department of Energy and Environment website.

Minister for the Environment and Energy Josh Frydenberg added that the NEG is expected to reduce “the household average family’s power bill by $550 a year and even more so for business.”

Turnbull said that the NEG would provide cheaper and more reliable energy “and at the same time, of course, meet our commitments to reduce emissions in accordance with the Paris Agreement.”

The Difficult Road Ahead

Despite support from a majority of the Coalition, a total of 10 MPs have chosen to reserve their right to cross the floor when Turnbull’s energy policy eventually goes to Parliament, according to The Australian. These MPs include Barry O’Sullivan, Andrew Hastie, Tony Pasin, Eric Abetz, Kevin Andrews, Craig Kelly, George Christensen, Tony Abbott, Andrew Gee, and Barnaby Joyce.

According to Newscorp, if these MPs choose to cross the floor and vote against the NEG, it will be very difficult for the government to pass its energy policy; especially if opposition leader Bill Shorten decides not to support the policy as well.

“The Labor party has to decide whether they want to support cheaper and more reliability electricity,” Turnbull told reporters.

“You know, we have got to bring an end to the years of ideology and idiocy which have been a curse on energy policy for too long, and that is why industry—whether you’re talking about big industrial consumers or small business—consumer groups are calling on governments and oppositions to get behind this policy.”

Former Prime Minister Tony Abbott, who has been a vocal critic of the NEG, said that the Turnbull government policy is designed to get agreement from the Labor states.

“The Liberal Party members want us to oppose the Labor Party, not to agree with the Labor Party, and the whole problem with the NEG is that it’s designed to get agreement from the Labor states,” Abbott said.

According to Abbott, the NEG sets the path for even more renewable energy, up from 23 percent to perhaps 36 percent from projects already under construction or contracted with the government. Labor would want an even higher percentage of renewables as well as higher emissions targets of up to 50 percent.

In a speech on July 3, Abbott said, “The government would like to crack the so-called trilemma of keeping the lights on, getting power prices down, and reducing emissions in line with our Paris targets.”

“It’s just that there’s no plausible evidence at all that all three can be done at the same time.”

Liberal MP Craig Kelly told 2GB that he had “grave concerns” about the NEG.

“When I look at the [Energy Security Board’s] modelling, there is not more dispatchable power, there is actually less.”

Kelly told 2GB that the modelling ultimately gives “more unreliable, weather-dependent generation capacity.”

An exposure draft of the proposed changes to National Electricity Law that will implement the NEG has now been released for stakeholder consultation. Submissions are due by Sep. 12.

Turnbull said he hopes to legislate the policy before the end of the year.

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