Nationals dig in over PM’s emission policy

Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce insists the Nationals will not rush a decision on backing a Morrison Government plan to cut carbon emissions, with some MPs still unconvinced.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison with deputy PM and Nationals leader Barnaby Joyce. Photo: AAP/Lukas Coch

Prime Minister Scott Morrison with deputy PM and Nationals leader Barnaby Joyce. Photo: AAP/Lukas Coch

A four-hour partyroom meeting on Sunday failed to yield an agreement from the junior coalition partner to back the government’s net zero by 2050 plan.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison is under intense pressure to take a credible net zero by 2050 plan with him to COP26 climate talks in Glasgow later this month.

Joyce said some of his Nationals colleagues had unanswered questions about the cost of stronger emissions reduction targets for regional economies.

“This is not something that is going to happen in a great rush. We’re going to make sure it’s a diligent process,” he told reporters in Canberra on Monday.

Some reports suggested the Nationals were asking for a regional assistance package of up to $20 billion in return for supporting a net zero goal.

But Joyce downplayed the price tag.

“I’ve heard numbers but I don’t know where these numbers come from,” he said.

“It’s not about a number, it’s about an outcome.”

Before Sunday’s meeting, Joyce effectively vetoed raising the government’s medium-range target, which is currently set at reducing emissions by 26 to 28 per cent on 2005 levels by 2030.

Energy Minister Angus Taylor briefed the meeting, saying it had been a “constructive and collegiate discussion about the future of our regions, traditional industries and the jobs and communities that rely on them”.

“There was a strong joint commitment to policies that strengthen our regions, not weaken them,” he said.

“It was also clear that there was absolutely no appetite for policies that impact jobs or add to the cost of living through an explicit carbon tax or a sneaky carbon tax.”

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Nationals deputy leader David Littleproud said after the meeting there had been “divergent views” expressed.

“There were still some more questions that need to be answered,” he told Sky News.

“There will be no agreement until such time we get comfort … I don’t think it would be responsible (to agree immediately), I think it would be reckless.”

He said supporting a more ambitous emissions target would be one of the biggest decisions his party had ever made and he and colleagues would not be rushed into it.

The Nationals are adamant the coal industry must be allowed to continue well into the 2050s.

Taylor said the two parties were aligned in protecting traditional industries and ensuring strong regions.

“That’s what I want to see, that’s what all Liberals want to see, and that’s what the National Party wants to see,” the regional NSW MP told reporters.

Liberal Trade Minister Dan Tehan said the regions and exporters had to be brought along as part of a net zero plan.

“Because if we don’t, protectionist forces are at play,” he told Sky News.

Labor’s climate change spokesman Chris Bowen said the coalition had failed to act in the national interest on a crucial issue during its time in power.

“Australians have every right to wake up this morning disgusted to read the headlines that after eight years in office, the country does not have a climate change policy,” he told ABC radio.

-with AAP

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