Prime Minister Scott Morrison has dismissed claims the Coalition is divided on climate policy, claiming the issue has been resolved.
His comments came after Nationals Senator Matt Canavan said the government’s net-zero emissions by 2050 target was “dead”.
Campaigning in Rockhampton on Wednesday, Mr Morrison said the government supported the climate target.
“Everyone knows that Matt hasn’t been supportive of that position, there’s no news there,” he said.
“[Senator Canavan] has held it for a long time, that debate has been done in the Coalition and is resolved, our policy was set out very clearly, and it has the strong support of the government.”
Other colleagues were quick to dismiss Senator Canavan’s comments on Wednesday, with Nationals MPs saying the junior Coalition partner were committed to net-zero.
Campaigning alongside Mr Morrison, Nationals member for Capricornia Michelle Landry told Senator Canavan to tow the party line.
“Pull your head in, Matt,” she said. “I agree with the government’s position, I’m in one of the biggest coal mining electorates in the country.”
Mr Morrison used Wednesday’s press conference to attack Labor on climate change, accusing the opposition on reintroducing a carbon tax.
“It’s a sneaky carbon tax which Labor is putting in place, and it’s not just on the coal-mining industry,” he said.
“It’s on fuel supplies, it’s on petroleum, it’s on gas, it’s on the transport sector, it’s right across the board.
“That’s not good for Rockhampton, that’s not good for north Queensland, it’s certainly not good for Western Australia.”
Labor has pledged to faster levels of emissions reduction than the Coalition’s promise, using the Safeguard Mechanism. It requires big emitters to offset their emissions and was introduced by the Abbott government in 2016.
Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese said on Tuesday there would never be a carbon tax under his government.
NSW Nationals MP and former deputy prime minister Michael McCormack said Senator Canavan’s comments did not reflect the majority view of the National Party.
“Nats are country people and when country people look you in the eye and shake your hand and say, ‘that’s a deal’, then it’s a deal,” he told ABC Radio National on Wednesday.
“It doesn’t help [election chances]. [Senator Canavan] needs to be talking about the good things that we’ve done … many of the programs that I put in place when I was the deputy prime minister, that’s what he needs to be talking about.”
Treasurer Josh Frydenberg said Senator Canavan’s position was “old news” and the Coalition remained committed to the target.
“Net zero is a commitment by the coalition that is clear, that is firm and that is non-negotiable,” he told the Nine Network on Wednesday.
The issue erupted at the weekend, when the LNP candidate for the Queensland electorate of Flynn, Colin Boyce, told the ABC that there was “wiggle room” within the net-zero target.
“Zero net carbon emissions by 2050, Morrison’s document, is a flexible plan that leaves us wiggle room as we proceed into the future,” Mr Boyce said.
He was backed by Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce.
“We’ve said we’ve set a target, we’re going to try and meet … but I think where Colin’s coming from, it’s completely understandable,” Mr Joyce said.
Labor’s climate spokesman Chris Bowen said the Coalition was still arguing over the basics about action on climate change.
“These climate deniers and delayers will continue to be a handbrake on real action on climate after nine years in office,” he told ABC Radio National.
Mr Bowen said the Coalition was engaged in a “lazy, toxic, scare campaign” on the issue.
“Scott Morrison will continue to engage in that lazy, toxic, scare campaign because he’s not really committed to climate change, he prefers … to lie about the economic impacts of (Labor) policy,” he said.