Minister for Resources and Northern Australia Senator Matt Canavan.
Minister for Resources and Northern Australia Senator Matt Canavan.

Under-fire Joyce gets coal comfort from Canavan

MATT Canavan has become the first Cabinet Minister to break ranks to back in Barnaby Joyce's call for a new coal-fired generator in Queensland.

While restating his long standing position, the Resources Minister's comments put him at odds with senior colleagues, including Scott Morrison and Deputy Nationals Leader Bridget McKenzie, who yesterday publicly slapped down Mr Joyce.

The broadside from Senator McKenzie was just hours before a tense Cabinet meeting in Melbourne that attempted to extract a truce or pathway forward to hose down Nationals instability ahead of the upcoming Budget and election.

 

Minister for Resources and Northern Australia Senator Matt Canavan.
Minister for Resources and Northern Australia Senator Matt Canavan.

 

It comes as Dawson National MP George Christensen writes in today's The Courier-Mail that inner city voters' push for the end of coal is a push for the end of job security in Gladstone, Rockhampton, Mackay and Townsville.

Senator Canavan told The Courier-Mail yesterday that North Queenslanders "had a clear need" for a coal-fired power station.

"Businesses pay double the price than those in the south in North Queensland," Senator Canavan said. "We have some of the best coal in the world in North Queensland and we should use it lower power prices for Australians not only for those overseas."

His doubling down on the issue is a clear signal to three Nationals MPs in North and Central Queensland they should continue to campaign on the issue.

It will also be viewed through the prism of leadership tensions between Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack and Mr Joyce.

It comes as speculation is mounting the Morrison Government will not underwrite a new coal-fired generator but will just provide some taxpayer assistance to keep some older coal-fired generators in NSW operational for longer.

Energy Minister Angus Taylor, who has the strong support of Mr Joyce and other Nationals, would not rule out the speculation last night.

"The Government has been upfront about our intentions to ensure there is new generation to tackle the demand challenges facing the electricity grid - this is what our Underwriting New Generation Investment Program seeks to do, and we have received strong response to it,'' Mr Taylor said. "The program received 66 submissions covering a range of technologies including gas and hydro, as well as 10 projects that identified coal as a source of generation."

Mr Christensen said common sense on the value of coal seemed to be uncommon outside of regional Australia.

"Despite what Labor and the Greens may think, neither solar panels nor wind turbines nor fairy dust nor unicorn farts will supply the baseload power needs of this nation, particularly if we want to keep our heavy industries,'' Mr Christensen said.