The deputy Liberal leader has dismissed an olive branch extended by Labor on energy policy as a backflip.
But Labor leader Anthony Albanese said the offer was genuine as he hoped to short-circuit Australia’s endless energy debate by negotiating a new, bipartisan deal.
He made the offer in a letter to Prime Minister Scott Morrison late on Tuesday.
Treasurer Josh Frydenberg – previously the energy minister – said it was hard to know how serious Labor was about the truce.
He pointed to recent comments by Labor’s environment spokesman Mark Butler criticising the government’s emissions policy,
“This reminds me about that Groucho Marx saying, ‘Well, if you don’t like these principles I’ve got others’,” Mr Frydenberg told Sky on Wednesday.
“Our focus has always been on technology, not taxation.”
Mr Albanese said it was a genuine offer, with his party flexible on a new framework.
He recognised there was disagreement on what the emissions target should be.
“But that shouldn’t stop there being a framework … whether it’s the NEG (National Energy Guarantee), or an emissions intensity scheme, or a clean energy target, you should be able to agree on that framework that provides that investment certainty,” he told ABC radio.
“I don’t see why a government that says that it’s interested in moving the country forward and more consensus in politics wouldn’t be prepared to engage constructively.”
Past policies developed under former PM Malcolm Turnbull’s leadership were scuttled in part because some Coalition MPs were cautious about working with Labor on any climate change policy.
The government released an energy technology road map in May outlining what fuel sources could be used to meet Australia’s emissions reduction obligations.
It highlighted the key role of gas, pumped hydro and new hydrogen technologies to underpin solar and wind power generation.
Mr Albanese said there was little there for Labor to quibble with, but it did not amount to an energy policy.
“It represents an opportunity that we have an obligation to build upon,” he wrote to Mr Morrison.
Labor will back further development of carbon capture and storage – something advocated by Coalition backbenchers – as long as the money doesn’t come from existing government clean energy financing sources.
It has also promised a Labor government would respect all contracts under the Emission Reduction Fund, although it opposes its existence.