Barnaby Joyce said it was important to support coal mining because fossil fuels are Australia’s biggest export. The former leader of The Nationals, Barnaby Joyce, is pushing for the publicly backed emissions reduction corporation to invest in new fossil fuel projects.
• The Clean Energy Finance Corporation has $10 billion to invest in projects that help Australia transition to lower emissions
• Barnaby Joyce put forward an amendment to the CEFC legislation that would let it to invest in “low emissions coal-fired power”
• He said he had “no problems” with the “logical” path to cleaner energy
• The Clean Energy Finance Corporation (CEFC) is the “green bank” that has $10 billion to invest on behalf of the Australian government in projects that help the nation transition to lower emissions.
Mr Joyce revealed in Parliament that he has put forward an amendment to the government’s own legislation for the CEFC that would allow it to invest in “high intensity, low emissions coal-fired power”.
The outspoken backbencher recently warned the Prime Minister against committing to carbon neutrality by the middle of the century, and advocated for agriculture and manufacturing to be carved out of any deal. In his speech, Mr Joyce warned the Parliament was falling victim to the “quasi religion” of not being allowed to mention coal. He has urged Labor politicians representing coal mining electorates to support his changes, warning they will face the wrath of voters otherwise.
“You can’t say you support the coal industry, but you don’t support the use of coal,” he said.
Mr Joyce said it was important to note he had “no problems” with the path to cleaner energy.
“That’s logical,” he told Parliament.
During the speech he was heckled by other politicians about whether there would be any appetite to create new fossil fuel power stations.
“If the market decides they don’t want to build one, they don’t want to build one. That’s their choice,” he said. “But they’ve got to have that opportunity.”
Mr Joyce said he acknowledged he would attract the “umbrage” of some of his own government colleagues for putting the pro-coal pitch forward, but said fossil fuels were the nation’s biggest export.
“If we are going to say that we believe it is right and just to export it to the rest of the world — as I do,” he said. “Surely it is logical that you would also produce the best technology and the most efficient technology to use it, and stand by that product by saying we will build it in Australia. “We will show you how to use it best.”
Energy and Emissions Reduction Minister Angus Taylor said yesterday was the first time he had seen Mr Joyce’s amendment. “It is important that we take an opportunity to consider what has been put forward,” a spokesman said for Mr Taylor said.
The CEFC legislation was up before the Parliament for amendment so the government could set the $1 billion Grid Reliability Fund, designed to fund new energy generation, storage and transmission infrastructure, including eligible projects shortlisted under the Underwriting New Generation Investments (UNGI) program.
“The government has other programs available to it such as UNGI to support coal projects, and is supporting a feasibility study into a HELE coal project in Queensland,” the spokesman said.
Shadow Climate Change Minister Chris Bowen said the government was forced into a “humiliating backdown” after Mr Joyce proposed the amendment. “The fact this bill has been languishing in the parliament for over six months proves it was never about grid stability, but was about giving the embattled Minister Taylor unprecedented power to direct clean energy funds into fossil fuels,” Mr Bowen said.
“The chaos would be funny if it didn’t mean higher prices and lower reliability for households and businesses, and jeopardy for thousands of jobs.”