Barnaby Joyce is reserving the right to cross the floor and vote against the Turnbull Government’s signature energy policy, and called for a Plan B if it fails to bring power prices down.
Ahead of a meeting of National Party MPs, and tomorrow’s critical joint party room meeting, the former deputy prime minister said the government had to have an answer before the next election.
“People in the local pub don’t care about the Paris Agreement (to lower emissions),” Mr Joyce said.
“What matters to them is they can afford their power bills. And they currently cannot.
“They have got to go down.”
Mr Joyce, and others like former prime minister Tony Abbott, believe the National Energy Guarantee is too green and does more to lower emissions than power bills.
Mr Joyce has suggested the government should have the ability to break up power companies if prices don’t drop.
“We have to have the capacity in the future, to say if you don’t play the game we have the capacity, with anti-trust legislation, to say we can divest you of one of your assets, force you to put it back on the market.
“I know it will force honesty.
“What I’ll be looking for is the alternative. It’s got to be real. It cannot be a statement of could.
“Could doesn’t carry weight. Would does.”
Mr Joyce said the poor result in the Longman by-election should have sent alarm bells.
“When the primary vote is in the 20s, and you don’t take that seriously, you’re very politically naive.
“You better read the tea leaves out there.”
ACCC chair Rod Simms briefed National Party MPs about his recommendation that the government underwrite future sources of dispatchable, or on-demand, power.
Mr Abbott in the meantime refuted Mr Turnbull’s assertion the policy has the strong support of Coalition MPs.
“Let’s see what happens tomorrow,” Mr Abbott said.
“It would just be appalling if this was to be waved through.
“It’s critical for the future of the government, and it’s critical for the future of our economy.”
Mr Abbott said rejecting coal would “hasten the de-industrialisation” of the economy.
He renewed his call for the government to step in and keep open the Liddell power station in the Hunter Valley.
“A compulsory acquisition process needs to start now,” he said.
“If we want to set up a contest at the next election, we’ve got to be about cutting price, not emissions.”
He said the government had “fallen” for Labor’s obsession with increasing renewables at the expense of lower prices and coal.
Mr Abbott, like Mr Joyce, could vote against the policy in the House of Representatives, a move senior government MPs have agreed would not be a good look.
Coalition members, though, have the right to cross the floor, without recrimination.
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