Anthony Albanese has thrown his support behind coal exports ahead of a tour of central Queensland.
But the federal Opposition Leader has been challenged to say three words during his visit to coal country: “I support Adani.”
Mr Albanese said Australia could continue to mine and export coal while also having strong climate change policies.
“If Australia stopped exporting today there would not be less demand for coal – the coal would come from a different place,” he told Nine newspapers on Monday.
“So it would not reduce emissions – which has to be the objective. I don’t see a contradiction between that and having a strong climate change policy.”
Mr Albanese’s support for coal exports came after former Labor environment minister and Midnight Oil frontman Peter Garrett urged the party at the weekend to commit to ambitious plans to avoid a climate change “catastrophe”.
Mr Garrett warned Labor’s Environmental Action Network in Sydney on Saturday night that the party’s true believers were “dying out” and a younger generation of voters would be “more radical and less forgiving” if the party failed to act on global warming.
He also took direct aim at former colleague Joel Fitzgibbon and “some in the CFMEU”, who he accused of deliberately undermining Labor and being “not committed to the challenge” of reducing emissions.
Mr Fitzgibbon, Labor’s agriculture and resources spokesman, suffered a big swing against him in his Hunter Valley seat at the federal election. He ahas been prominent in arguing the ALP should offer “a political and policy settlement” on climate policy to reduce its emissions reductions target.
On Monday, federal Resources Minister Matt Canavan said the trip to Queensland presented a test for Mr Albanese and Labor.
“They say now they support the export of coal,” Senator Canavan told Sky News.
“I haven’t heard Anthony Albanese say three simple words: ‘I support Adani’.”
Senator Canavan has also led the charge for a new coal-fired power station to be built in north Queensland.
However, Mr Albanese has shot down the idea.
“I think, very clearly, it is obvious to all that there won’t be a new coal-fired power station built in Australia,” he told 2GB radio.
“The market is indicating that just won’t happen.
“There’s nothing stopping it at all except for the economics, and the economics just don’t stack up compared to the other alternatives that are there.”
Mr Albanese’s visit to regional Queensland comes as the Labor Party lays the foundations for policies it will be taking to the next federal election.
Party members are debating how to approach climate change and how ambitious the party should be in relation to its emissions reduction target.
A recent review of the May federal election found Labor’s ambiguous language around the Adani coal mine cost the party votes in northern and central Queensland and other coal mining regions.