A Labor frontbencher has squared off with Energy Minister Josh Frydenberg, accusing the government of misrepresenting the outcome of talks with energy giant AGL.
“Josh, I think you’re embarrassed,” Joel Fitzgibbon told the minister in the corridors of Parliament House on Tuesday morning.
“I think you’re embarrassed because every day you’ve got to roll out and support the Prime Minister’s desperate attempts to mislead the Australian community.”
Mr Frydenberg was having none of it.
He told Mr Fitzgibbon – who he later labelled “no-coal Joel” – Labor was prepared to turn its back on a million households.
“You’re defending the big energy companies who are making big profits,” the minister said.
— Matthew Doran (@MattDoran91) September 11, 2017
Mr Fitzgibbon responded by saying: “Off the back of the high prices you created.”
The exchange came a day after the government claimed it had extracted a promise from AGL chief Andy Vesey to take a proposal to his board to consider selling or extending past 2022 the life of the coal-fired Liddell power station in the NSW Hunter Valley.
But a few hours later, Mr Vesey told the ABC he believed the company could find the best solution for the energy market while still closing the plant down.
That stance earned an angry rebuke from government backbencher Craig Kelly.
“I think it appears AGL speaks with forked tongue,” he said, labelling the company “probably one of our biggest corporate villains”.
“I am a little bit angry but it (does not) surprise me whatsoever – they’ve cut off tens of thousands of Australians, they’ve disconnected them from their electricity because of the high cost of electricity.
“They’ve been rallying against coal at a time when 80 per cent of their generation comes from coal.”
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said options for Liddell – which has generation capacity of 2000MW – need to be on the table right now.
“And the most obvious option is to keep it running,” he told reporters in Canberra.
“But if AGL want to put up others, we’ll obviously consider them, as indeed will the energy market operator and others.”