South Australian Premier Jay Weatherill is not backing down from his heated exchange with federal Energy Minister Josh Frydenberg as the dust settles on their confrontation in a suburban Adelaide garage.
Mr Frydenberg has called the conduct on Thursday “unbecoming”, “childish” and “unacceptable”, while Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull called it “unedifying”.
But Mr Weatherill says he was simply standing up for his state.
“I don’t care whether it is fair, it’s about standing up for South Australia,” he said at a debate with state Opposition Leader Steven Marshall in Adelaide on Friday.
“If anyone bags my state, I’m going to stand up and defend them, especially when we’re being criticised inappropriately, falsely, for things that we have not done.”
Mr Marshall said the premier “essentially lost it” at the AGL event to launch a 1000-strong solar battery network, funded in part by the federal government.
“It’s embarrassing for South Australia,” he told the debate audience. ”The spotlight right around the nation, whether the premier likes it or not, is on South Australia because his policy has failed.”
Mr Frydenberg initially noted the importance of state and federal governments working together and spruiked his government’s announcement of a $2 million expansion of the Snowy Hydro scheme at the AGL event on Thursday.
The gloves came off when Mr Weatherill, days after announcing the SA government’s energy plan, chided Mr Frydenberg for his treatment of the state.
“I have to say it is a little galling to be standing here next to a man who has been standing up with his prime minister bagging South Australia at every step of the way over the last six months,” he said.
Mr Frydenberg said it reflected “very poorly” on Mr Weatherill that he had chosen the launch, for something SA had not funded, for his verbal attack.
He also labelled SA’s new energy policy the premier’s “$550 million admission of failure”.
The events unfolded at the garage of Geoff Perkins, the first recipient of a solar battery in the AGL network, who admitted it was “marvellous to watch”.
“It was deliciously uncomfortable where I was sitting, it was obviously uncomfortable for others, but the journalists were just wetting themselves. It was marvellous to watch, salivation everywhere,” he told ABC radio on Friday.
As the drama plays out, groups are continuing to investigate the energy policy the SA government laid out this week, including livestock farmers.
Livestock SA said on Friday it wanted the government to clarify exactly how its plan to offer landowners royalties for gas extraction at their properties would work.
Announcing five SA gas projects that have won state government grants, Energy Minister Tom Koutsantonis said the initiative had the backing of Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce.
“This is about giving people an economic return for allowing someone on their land,” he told reporters.