Malcolm Turnbull feeling heat on plan to cut Australia's carbon emissions

Elias Hubbard
August 20, 2018

Australia's prime minister on Monday abandoned plans to legislate to limit greenhouse gas emissions to head off a revolt by conservative lawmakers.

Some conservatives, including former prime minster Tony Abbott, have publicly spoken out against the National Energy Guarantee, and there are reports Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton is being urged to run for the leadership.

Despite last minute backflips on energy policy over the weekend, the Nationals could be set to desert the Prime Minister over the subject, with a strong faction within the party's MPs arguing the National Energy Guarantee should be ditched.

Queensland LNP president Gary Spence said half of the 21 members could lose their seats in the next election if Mr Turnbull remained in charge. But he left the door open to re-attempting the targets when the numbers in the House were more secure.

"Mr Turnbull is truly a white flag prime minister", Mr Shorten said.

Now the knives are out for Mr Turnbull because of his controversial energy policy, and a Fairfax/Ipsos poll indicating the Coalition is lagging ten points behind Labor.

"In politics you have to focus on what you can deliver", Mr Turnbull told reporters on Monday.

The Australian Energy Regulator will get extra funding to make it more of a "tough cop on the beat".

A staunch critic of Mr Turnbull's direction on energy prices, former Nationals leader Barnaby Joyce, said he supported the prime minister.

Asked about the leadership, Mr Joyce said it was now time for "stability". "He has given me his absolute support".

The new stance on energy was revealed by Fairfax Media shortly before 6pm on Friday after the Prime Minister spent most of the day negotiating the changes with Treasurer Scott Morrison and Energy Minister Josh Frydenberg.

The reset means Mr Turnbull's energy policy will be dominated by rules to cap default electricity prices for customers and increase financial penalties for the big three energy suppliers - AGL, EnergyAustralia and Origin.

Mr Dutton's reference to his remarks on Thursday confirms his belief that he would have to step down from the cabinet and the ministry if he could not support the government's energy plan or other policies.

"There are some people who don't support the current leader and that is quite obvious", cabinet minister Christopher Pyne told reporters on Monday morning.

"The only way we can win the next election is to have a contest over policy not personalities".

Education minister Simon Birmingham said the NEG still had "overwhelming" support of cabinet but warned the "handful" of individuals agitating for a leadership spill to "think about the consequences of continuing to cause that trouble".

Asked further about the leadership, Mr Turnbull said: "I enjoy the confidence of the cabinet and of my party room".

"It's not about him, it's not about me".

The original commitment would have set in legislation Australia's pledge for a 26% cut in emissions, based on 2005 levels, by 2030.

"I do have some concerns about that", Mr Kelly said.

The idea of setting the emissions target for the electricity sector by regulation had support from Labor state governments and had not been criticised by the Labor/Greens government in the ACT during talks over the NEG, but the Greens condemned the new approach on Saturday morning.

Mr Kelly and other conservatives such as long-serving Liberal senator Ian Macdonald wanted the target dropped altogether.

Liberal backbencher Trent Zimmerman said the prime minister continued to perform strongly.

Australia remains on track to meet its Paris climate accord commitments, despite the change in policy.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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