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New Australian PM Already Under Pressure On New Coal Power

Geoff Chambers, The Australian

Whether it’s marginal seats in Queensland, western Sydney or Victoria, the message is clear: voters want action on energy prices, not emissions targets.

Scott Morrison previously declared new coal-fired power stations wouldn’t be able to generate electricity at “the same price as old coal-fired power stations”.

The new Prime Minister — who took a lump of coal into parliament and accused Labor of “coalaphobia” — is under pressure from colleagues to support clean-coal technology. As Resources Minister Matt Canavan said yesterday: “We need to hearken to a new era of energy and resources abundance. God has given us an abundance of energy below the ground but we need to convert that to an abundance above the ground to bring on more energy supply and lower prices.”

Morrison, as treasurer, said in April that it wasn’t “an economic fact” that you could “open up one down the road and all of a sudden it is producing power at the same price as Bayswater or any of the others”.

Treasurer Josh Frydenberg, the architect of the doomed national energy guarantee, yesterday continued the “technology-agnostic” line that crippled Malcolm Turnbull, saying renewables would play an important role. “When it comes to the energy mix, it is an all-of-the-above approach — that has not changed,” he said. “We need to maintain coal in the system because it is the bedrock of our energy system, but we also need to make way for renewables and the important role they can play in the future.”

To cut through on energy, Angus Taylor, Morrison and Frydenberg will have to change their language. Turnbull’s energy slogans — dominated by words such as “dispatchable”, “technology-neutral” and “Snowy 2.0” — have fallen flat for Australians, who want affordable power.

In his first press conference as leader on Friday, Morrison was asked whether his government would retain the NEG. He focused his response on driving down power prices and pledging to put in place the Australian Competition & Consumer Commission report, which backbenchers are demanding be fast-tracked.

Whether it’s marginal seats in Queensland, western Sydney or Victoria, the message is clear: voters want action on prices, not emissions targets.

With Asia importing a record amount of Australian coal, and building new clean-coal-fired power stations to drive down emissions and secure cheap power, Morrison will be expected by conservative colleagues and Coalition voters to ditch Turnbull’s strategy of playing both sides of the fence.

The Australian, 28 August 2018