GRACosway Weekly Wrap Up: Energy Debate Reignited

6 April 2018
  • A group of up to 30 Coalition backbenchers have joined the ‘Monash Forum’, pushing back against the Government’s National Energy Guarantee policy.
  • AGL is yet to announce whether it will sell the Liddell power plant in NSW.
  • The Australian Electoral Commission has released proposals for electoral redistributions in Victoria and the ACT, proposing a new seat for each jurisdiction.
  • Treasurer Scott Morrison spoke at the AFR Banking and Wealth Summit on the nation’s future economic landscape.
  • The Prime Minister has announced further funding for the Rookwood Weir project in Queensland.
  • Greens leader Richard Di Natale has called for a ‘People’s Bank’ and universal basic income.
Divided Energy

Energy policy has dominated the national debate this week, as a group of Coalition MPs have challenged the Government’s signature energy policy, the National Energy Guarantee (NEG). The ‘Monash Forum’ is calling for a $4 billion high-efficiency, low-emissions (HELE) coal-fired power station to replace existing power sources; greater domestic use of brown coal currently exported internationally; and further government support to overcome risks faced by private investors in this market. Energy Minister Josh Frydenberg has confirmed that coal is a “critical component” of energy supply and will not be “demonised” under the NEG. The Monash Forum – which comprises conservatives Tony Abbott, Eric Abetz and Kevin Andrews – has insisted their demands are not an attempt to destabilise Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull’s leadership. Liberal Queensland MP Luke Howarth, who holds one of the most marginal seats in the Parliament, has cautioned his party against challenging the PM’s leadership as Mr Turnbull approaches his 30th Newspoll loss to Labor. Former PM John Howard echoed this sentiment, calling on the Coalition to work together in “a far more purposeful way than has been evident over the last few months”.

Uncertain Future for Liddell 

Also in energy, the Federal Government has amplified pressure on energy giant AGL to sell its Liddell power plant in the NSW Hunter Valley, ahead of its scheduled 2022 closure. Alinta Energy has confirmed its interest in purchasing the asset with a view to extending the plant’s life for five to seven years. Resisting government pressure, AGL meanwhile reportedly intends to replace the site with renewable energy sources.

Seat Changes Proposed

The Australian Electoral Commission (AEC) has this afternoon published proposals for federal electoral redistributions, proposing the creation of the new seat of ‘Fraser’ in Victoria and ‘Bean’ in the ACT. It has also suggested renaming the Victorian divisions of Corangamite to ‘Cox’; McMillan to ‘Monash’; Melbourne Ports to ‘Macnamara’; and Murray to ‘Nicholls’. The proposal would see changes to the boundaries of all existing 37 Victorian electoral divisions. A redistribution proposal for South Australia is expected to be released next Friday, 13 April.

PM in the Sunshine State 

The PM spent much of the week in Queensland where he announced an additional $46.1 million in funding towards the construction of the Rookwood Weir project, via the National Water Infrastructure Development Fund. The project will reliably supply 76,000 ML of water annually and is expected to generate 2,100 jobs. Mr Turnbull also attended the opening ceremony of the Commonwealth Games in Brisbane, and joined royal visitors Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall for a tour of the athletes’ village.

“Mining the Smart Economy”

Treasurer Scott Morrison has delivered an address to the AFR Banking and Wealth Summit in Sydney this week, focusing on economic benefits offered by technological change in today’s “smart economy”, and the Government’s commitment to science, technology and the FinTech industry. When questioned on the Banking Royal Commission, Mr Morrison suggested the Government was already aware of the uncovered misconduct, and had been “getting on and dealing with the problems”.

GST Revenue Distribution 

The Commonwealth Grants Commission (CGC) has released its update on the distribution of GST revenue for the 2018-19 financial year, revealing the overall level of funding will increase in all states and territories except Queensland and the Northern Territory. Treasurer Scott Morrison indicated $5 billion in additional GST funding will be made over four years, due to improved integrity measures. Despite receiving an increase to its GST distributions, the WA Government believes it has been “short-changed again”, reissuing calls for GST reform, while the NSW Government has said the GST model is “broken” and needs a “complete overhaul”.

Shifting Green Policies 

Greens leader Senator Richard Di Natale has called for a universal basic income (UBI) in Australia, in place of the current government welfare framework. He also proposed the creation of a government-owned ‘People’s Bank’ to facilitate more affordable loans. The banking policy has been criticised by both Treasurer Scott Morrison and the Opposition while Liberal backbencher Eric Abetz has more colourfully described the UBI proposition as “sheer economic lunacy”. Notably, the Greens have conceded that the realistic chance of securing a price on carbon is now “almost non-existent”.

Looking Ahead

The NSW, WA and ACT parliaments will sit next week.


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