Liberal backbench MP Craig Kelly has joined other coalition members to lobby for coal energy.Malcolm Turnbull is staring down yet another pro-coal push from his backbench, with the latest effort calling for a new $4 billion power station.
Liberal MP Craig Kelly is part of the self-described ‘Monash Forum’, which includes a collection of coalition backbenchers, calling for taxpayers to fund a coal plant.
The “forum” is named after World War I military commander (Sir) John Monash, who was a key figure in opening Victoria’s Latrobe Valley up to coal production.
“If the government can intervene to build Snowy 2.0, why not intervene to build Hazelwood 2.0 on the site of the coal-fired power station in Victoria that’s now being dismantled?” the group asked in a letter published on Sky News on Tuesday.
The government owns the Snowy Hydro scheme, but does not own the former Hazelwood site.
Mr Turnbull says his government’s policy put a premium on “dispatchability”, which could be delivered by coal, gas, pumped hydro or other technologies.
“I can only say to you that our national energy guarantee has been endorsed by the whole coalition party room,” he told reporters in Brisbane.
“It’s got strong support from industry and state jurisdictions … it’s vitally important that it be adopted because what we need is a technology-agnostic energy policy that encourages investment.”
Mr Turnbull says a technology-neutral policy can deliver affordable and reliable power while meeting ‘s emissions targets.
Labor frontbencher Mark Butler said “fossils” in the hard-right of the coalition were testing Mr Turnbull’s leadership, just ahead of a crucial Newspoll next week.
“Given his track record of failing to stand up to the hard-right of his party room and caving in on two energy policies, no one should be surprised if he caved into the hard right fossils again,” Mr Butler said.
It is expected the Newspoll will be the 30th in a row showing the coalition trailing Labor – a measure which Mr Turnbull used to oust Tony Abbott in September 2015.
Mr Kelly said it was “nonsense” to suggest the group aimed to destabilise Mr Turnbull’s leadership.
“With so much anti-coal rhetoric around in the community we want to ensure that people understand and we’re a voice about how important coal is to our economy,” Mr Kelly told ABC radio.
“Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has my full support.”
Energy Minister Josh Frydenberg spoke to Mr Kelly on Tuesday after reports emerged of the group.
“What they want to see and what we want to see is exactly the same thing, which is lower prices and a more reliable system,” Mr Frydenberg told reporters in Melbourne.
“Coal has an important part to play in that role.”
Energy ministers will meet in Melbourne on April 20 to discuss the policy.