Coalition dissidents demand national energy guarantee meeting be open to all
Craig Kelly wants meeting for business leaders to be open to all MPs ahead of expected party-room protests
The energy minister, Josh Frydenberg, is being lobbied to open a private meeting of the government’s backbench energy committee to all comers ahead of more protests about the national energy guarantee expected in the Coalition party room on Tuesday.
Frydenberg has organised a delegation of business leaders to address a special meeting of the Coalition backbench committee on energy and the environment early Tuesday morning, ahead of the regular gathering of the Coalition party room, in an effort to keep a lid on the internal debate.
Ahead of Tuesday’s meetings, Nationals were also meeting separately to discuss the policy on Monday, with the junior Coalition partner split about the Neg.
Government MPs say the former prime minister Tony Abbott is likely to attend the early committee meeting on Tuesday. The government’s other main Neg dissident, the chair of the backbench committee, Liberal Craig Kelly, told Guardian Australia the meeting should be open to anyone who wanted to come “because this is such an important area of policy”.
Kelly also fired a shot across the bow of the business delegation – which includes the Business Council of Australia, the Minerals Council of Australia, BHP, the National Farmers Federation and the Ai Group – groups that are all broadly supportive of the government’s energy policy.
The BCA’s chief executive, Jennifer Westacott, said: “Our members employ over one million Australians and are strongly supportive of implementing the national energy guarantee”.
“Business is crying out for policy certainty. The guarantee can be a circuit breaker for the stale energy debate, which has paralysed investment in new generation,” the BCA chief said. “It can give people the confidence they need to invest and build new generation capacity”.
“The nation simply can’t afford another period of policy paralysis. Denying consumers the opportunity for reliable, affordable energy is unacceptable”.
But Kelly said business groups needed to be careful of what they wished for. “It’s surprising that these business leaders are such vocal advocates for the national energy guarantee when they don’t yet know all the detail, and with the Neg, the devil will be in the detail”.