Malcolm Turnbull’s move to dump carbon emissions targets from the National Energy Guarantee has been welcomed by conservatives inside his government.
The move on carbon emissions was just one of a raft of major changes to energy policies on Monday as the Prime Minister fends off a growing internal revolt over the NEG.
On Monday afternoon, Nationals MPs held a joint media conference to welcome the changes.
“I’m not afraid to say the C-word: Coal, Coal, Coal is going to be one of the areas we invest in,” deputy leader Bridget McKenzie said.
.@M_McCormackMP: We want to make sure that the emphasis is always on price. We do not want our consumers to be ripped off.
— Sky News Australia (@SkyNewsAust) August 20, 2018
Earlier, former deputy prime minister Barnaby Joyce had appeared on Sky News to praise Mr Turnbull’s move.
“What he’s shown is his capacity to listen, his capacity to understand his concerns that are out there in the electorate, and isn’t that what a democracy’s about?” he said.
Mr Turnbull’s announcement came as some conservative Liberals, including former prime minster Tony Abbott, publicly spoke out against the NEG, drifting towards Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton as preferred leader.
“In politics you have to focus on what you can deliver and that’s what we’ve done and we’ll continue to do,” Mr Turnbull told reporters at Parliament House in Canberra on Monday.
“The outstanding reservations of a number of our colleagues, combined with the absence of bipartisan support, means that as long as that remains the case we won’t be in a position to take that legislation forward.”
One crucial change will be abandoning plans to legislate carbon emission targets through the NEG, which would be blocked by Coalition backbenchers in the one-seat majority parliament.
The government will also adopt a recommendation from the consumer watchdog to establish a “default market offer” on energy bills.
“A price expectation will give consumers a clear picture of how much they should be paying for their electricity,” Mr Turnbull said.
“For too long, the energy companies have baffled consumers with confusing and complex offers, promising deep discounts to standing offer prices that bear little relation to the cost of providing electricity.”
The Prime Minister believes setting a default power price will give customers a clear picture of when they are being ripped off.
The ACCC will also receive extra funding to monitor electricity prices and act on misuse of market power.
“Ultimately, this will secure lower power bills in the short to medium term, but we want the big power companies to know that we mean business,” Mr Turnbull said
“We will introduce significant new powers so as the ACCC can step in where there has been abuse or misuse of market power.”
A “power of last resort” will allow the government to intervene and break up market concentration if major companies gobble up their smaller competitors.
Opposition Leader Bill Shorten, on a visit to a solar farm near Canberra, described Malcolm Turnbull as the “white flag Prime Minister”. He said the energy backdown was not about lowering power prices or reducing pollution.
“It is just about appeasing Turnbull’s enemies in the Liberal Party so he can keep his job,” he said.