Turnbull finally claims victory on energy policy
PRIME Minister Malcolm Turnbull has won support for his energy policy at a coalition party room meeting today.
At a press conference held shortly after the meeting, Mr Turnbull said the National Energy Guarantee had gained "overwhelming support" from Liberal and National MPs.
But a small number of MPs spoke against the policy at the meeting, which lasted for more than two hours, including former prime minister Tony Abbott and MPs Andrew Hastie and Tony Pasin. This could make it difficult for the PM to get the policy approved in the lower house if some MPs cross the floor to vote against it.
Endorsement of the policy is a significant victory for Mr Turnbull and allows the policy to now be put before the state and territory governments for sign-off before it seeks the approval of parliament.
Mr Turnbull urged Opposition Leader Bill Shorten to support the policy.
"The time has come for him to support the National Energy Guarantee," Mr Turnbull said. "It's been designed by the experts. It has the broadest support of any energy policy … in my time in politics and possibly a lot longer.
"Now is the time to provide the certainty and the investment that is going to see more generation and lower prices."
Environment Minister Josh Frydenberg said he would hold a conference call tonight with state and territory ministers to seek their approval. A draft of the state legislation would then be released and exhibited for a month.
Mr Frydenberg said there would be time for all states to agree on the policy after that before Victoria went into caretaker mode ahead of the state election in October.
'BUSINESSES CAN'T AFFORD MORE DELAY'
Ahead of the coalition party room meeting today some of the country's largest energy users, including BHP, Alcoa, BlueScope and Tomago Aluminium, released a joint statement calling for parliamentarians both at state and federal level to implement the NEG, "without further delay this week".
Released overnight with the Business Council of Australia, the statement said energy policy uncertainty over the past 10 years had stalled investment, driven up electricity prices and resulted in a less stable and reliable energy system.
"Australian businesses and industry cannot afford another period of inaction," it said.
It noted that not approving the policy this week would put Australia at risk of volatile electricity prices, inadequate investment in new generation and a less competitive environment for Australian businesses.
The statement was endorsed by Alcoa, BHP, BlueScope, JBS Australia, Rio Tinto, Shell Australia, Tomago Aluminium and the Business Council of Australia.
Other businesses groups have also previously endorsed the policy, including the National Farmers' Federation, Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Australian Industry Group, Council of Small Business Organisations, Australian Petroleum Production and Exploration Association and the Australian Energy Council.
Earlier Mr Abbott warned Australia will be "surrendering its sovereignty" if the policy was approved.
"This is by far the most important decision that this parliament will take," former prime minister Tony Abbott told ABC TV on Monday.
"This will shape our economy, this will determine our prosperity and the kind of industries we have for decades to come."
Mr Abbott wants the government to buy the Liddell coal-fired power station and forget about the Paris emissions target he signed as prime minister.
Former deputy prime minister Barnaby Joyce is among several others to have threatened to vote against the energy guarantee. He wants it to include promises to act against power companies who lift energy prices for households.
But a key coalition backbench committee on Monday night reportedly endorsed the government policies by a clear majority, according to Fairfax.
About 30 backbenchers attended the meeting and 10 of them were voting members. Of those, Mr Abbott was reportedly the only one to vote against it, although two others voted to keep discussing it. Seven voted in favour.
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has been spruiking the National Energy Guarantee as a policy that will deliver cheaper, more reliable power while lowering carbon emissions.
In parliament yesterday he said "ideology and idiocy" should not be allowed to determine its fate.
The policy would require retailers, such as gas, solar and wind farm owners, to sign contracts agreeing to supply a minimum amount of energy that could be available at all times.
The electricity sold to consumers must have an average emissions level that meets Australia's carbon emissions reduction target of 26 per cent, set as part of the Paris Agreement.
Mr Turnbull needs to get sign-off from the coalition party room before also getting unanimous agreement for the plan from six states and territory governments.
But some Labor states including the Victoria and Queensland have expressed concerns that the emissions reduction target is not high enough and want to make it easier to increase these in the future.
If the NEG is passed through the coalition party room today, Environment Minister Josh Frydenberg will seek a final state sign-off via a phone hook-up afterwards.
Mr Joyce's Nationals colleague George Christensen said he is optimistic ahead of Tuesday's meeting, based on reports the government will underwrite the construction of new power assets, including coal-fired stations.
The move was one of 56 recommendations from the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission designed to cut power prices, on which Nationals MPs were briefed on Monday.
Opposition energy spokesman Mark Butler is worried the recommendation has been "grossly misrepresented" by some Liberal and Nationals members.
"I'm concerned that this recommendation runs the risk of being manipulated to suit Malcolm Turnbull's need to get something through the coalition party room," he told the ABC Radio on Monday.
"If that happens, we certainly don't support that." But Mr Butler said he was eager to see a form of the guarantee succeed. "I don't think anyone wants this to fall over."