Guest essay by Eric Worrall
Major discomfort for representatives of Aussie coal mining districts; will they defy the government and support the vote to make coal eligible for climate finance, or will they face the wrath of their voters, many of whom are coal miners?
Craig Kelly may back Barnaby Joyce CEFC amendment to allow coal investment
Former Nationals leader announces he will try to amend his own government’s legislation
Katharine Murphy, Paul Karp and Adam Morton
Wed 17 Feb 2021 10.35 AEDT
The outspoken Liberal backbencher Craig Kelly says he will look at an amendment from Barnaby Joyce that would allow the Clean Energy Finance Corporation to invest in coal.
Joyce took Liberals by surprise on Tuesday night by proposing an amendment to the government’s CEFC bill intended to allow for new investment in “high efficiency, low emissions” coal-fired power.
Just before the House adjourned for the evening, Joyce told the chamber he would be moving an amendment to his own government’s policy because he was willing to put his “name to the paper” and stand up for jobs in the coal sector.
To quell a potential rebellion within its own ranks, the government withdrew the bill from the order of business for Wednesday.
Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2021/feb/16/barnaby-joyce-pushes-clean-energy-finance-amendment-to-allow-coal-investment
The Australian Federal Government’s hold on power is precarious. In the House of representatives their majority is 2 – the government holds 77 out of 151 seats. So the two members who have said they will rebel is potentially enough to stop bills being passed.
The hold in the Senate is even more precarious – the government controls a minority of senate seats, 36 out of 76, and needs at least three allies from other parties to pass bills. Some of the usual senate allies like the One Nation senators Pauline Hanson and Malcolm Roberts are outspoken climate skeptics.
The government might be able to get a bill passed with the help of opposition parties – but opposition politicians would demand a heavy price for their support, and it would be a huge and possibly politically fatal embarrassment for the Prime Minister to have to turn to his opponents, to overcome opposition from his own party. And of course, some opposition MPs represent coal mining districts – so the decision of what to support is just as much of a dilemma for them, as it is for the government.
Yet if the government does not pass a climate finance bill, the money for renewables projects could dry up. Despite ridiculous claims that renewables are cheaper than coal, we all know what happens when government life support is withdrawn from wind and solar projects.
Let us hope the Aussie rebels stick to their guns. I’m looking forward to the delicious spectacle of Aussie PM Scott Morrison talking up his climate record on the world stage, while back home his government is financing the construction of a coal plant – a possible outcome of this rebellion.
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