Anthony Albanese has given his strongest statement about the future of coal-fired power in Australia, saying it has no place in the country.
Repeatedly asked if a future Labor government would allow new coal power projects to proceed, the federal opposition leader said: “You may as well ask me if I support unicorns.”
“I don’t think there’s a place for new coal-fired power plants in Australia, full stop,” he told ABC radio on Tuesday.
His emphatic rejection of new coal stations stands is stark contrast to Labor deputy Richard Marles, who failed to articulate a clear position when asked over the weekend.
It comes as a fresh round of infighting has broken out within the coalition over climate and energy policy.
Labor used question time to shine a light on old comments made by newly minted Resources Minister Keith Pitt, who last year said solar panels and lithium batteries could become this generation’s “asbestos”.
Asked if that was his policy, Prime Minister Scott Morrison skirted his new minister’s comments and said the government was still offering incentives for household solar.
The coalition’s divisions on energy policy were also stirred after the government promised $4 million for a feasibility study into a coal-fired power station in north Queensland.
The company behind the project, Shine Energy, last year said the project would have to be protected from possible future prices on carbon in order to attract private investment.
The Australian Industry Group has estimated this could cost taxpayers $17 billion.
Mr Morrison said the indemnity issue was not “currently before the government”.
Mr Albanese said the private sector wouldn’t touch a new coal-fired power plant with a “barge pole”.
“This is hush money for the climate change deniers in the coalition,” he said.
Former resources minister Matt Canavan is the loudest backer of the Collinsville project.
Ahead of a coalition partyroom meeting in Canberra, Senator Canavan was squaring up for a fight.
“I welcome people have different views – some of my colleagues or others – want to have a different opinion to mine, that’s their right,” he told reporters.
“I just hope that they’d consider at the next election coming up to Collinsville with a convoy, perhaps of cars and vehicles, and holding a rally there to protest against a coal-fired power station.
“Particularly if they live in Sydney, Melbourne, Tasmania. Please come up to north Queensland and tell us how we’re all morally corrupt, it’d help us a lot.”
Business and industry groups are urging the government to commit to zero carbon emissions by 2050.
Mr Albanese refused to give a clear answer when pressed on whether Labor supported their calls, saying a climate policy would be released closer to the next federal election due in 2022.