Barnaby Joyce insists his Nationals will not be held hostage to the wishes of others when it comes to climate change policy.
The Nationals leader and Deputy Prime Minister chairing a meeting of the party on Sunday to discuss the policy Prime Minister Scott Morrison wants to take to Glasgow later this month for the United Nations climate change conference.
“Something as important as this is a decision that is not made by one person, it is not even made by the leadership. It is made by the party in general, that is the National Party,” Mr Joyce told reporters as he headed in to Parliament House.
Energy and Emission Reductions Minister Angus Taylor was slated to address the Nationals meeting, spelling out how the plan to get to net-zero emissions by 2050 will protect jobs and regional communities.
Asked if there is likely to be an agreement for an interim target of a 50 per cent emissions reduction, Mr Joyce said: “I think that is highly unlikely.”
‘We are the Nationals’
“We are not in the Liberal Party room. We are the Nationals. We will not be held hostage to what other people wish.”
He said there is unlikely to be a vote in the party room, rather he will gauge the temperature.
Finance Minister Simon Birmingham earlier dismissed suggestions the Nationals, the coalition’s junior partner, are dictating climate change policy.
“Certainly not,” he told Sky News’ Sunday Agenda program. “The government is deciding the government’s climate change policy.
“We bring together people right across the country to be able to effectively consider all of the implications and issues.”
But he said there was no point pretending some parts of the community were not concerned about those implications.
“The important message to them and to those who represent them is to understand other nations are already making these commitments,” Senator Birmingham said.
“Other nations are already making decisions that will have impacts on Australia and that’s why we need to invest and position ourselves to make sure we can take advantage of opportunities and make the transition successfully to protect jobs, to protect regions.”
Former veterans minister and now Nationals backbencher Darren Chester will end his boycott of the party room and attend the online meeting.
“The Nationals party room can’t be looking back wistfully at the 1950s as the good old days, when our communities are looking forward with optimism and purpose to a better future in 2050,” he told Nine newspapers.
Setting a carbon price?
But Labor frontbencher Katy Gallagher says it is still not known what the government’s ambition is.
“What we have seen is eight years, three prime ministers, 21 energy policies and now we have got the Prime Minister trying to wrangle a last-minute deal with the Nationals party about what they actually stand for,” she told ABC’s Insiders.
“They need to agree to net zero, they need to legislate that target and they need to set medium targets.
“That is the minimum the government should be doing.”
While supporting net zero emissions by 2050, Labor has yet to fully spell out its plans to get there and has yet to announce its 2030 or interim target.
Senator Gallagher did not rule out a price on carbon.
“We will outline our policies, we are looking at everything. We are looking at all of the information that is coming from all of the reviews,” she said.
“We are watching Glasgow and we will announce our policies in the lead up to the election.
“That is the responsible thing to do.”