Peter Dutton clashes with Ray Hadley over coal-fired power stations
Thursday, March 14th, 2019
Home affairs minister says while the government isn’t opposed to supporting coal projects, he is opposed to building them
The home affairs minister, Peter Dutton, says the Morrison government should not be in the business of building coal-fired power stations, and has put a question mark over whether taxpayers should support upgrades to existing plants.
Dutton faced a testy Ray Hadley for a weekly radio interview. The 2GB host is a strong advocate of coal, and during the interview he said Dutton was “toeing the company line” and was too scared to say Australia needed more power stations.
The Queensland conservative attempted to counter the agitation of his host by saying the government was intent on pursuing a “sensible debate” in relation to energy.
“We’ve got taxpayers’ money to spend, the question is whether the federal government should be building a coal-fired power station. I don’t agree with that. I don’t think we should be,” Dutton said.
While saying the government was not opposed to assisting coal, Dutton also indicated he wasn’t in favour of assisting projects with upgrades. “You’ve got power stations now that will be asking for taxpayers’ money, to upgrade.
“The question is, whether people want to pay more taxes, or whether you are going to use taxpayer money, instead of building that new road, or that tunnel.”
Hadley objected to renewables projects getting subsidies. Dutton deadbatted: “There is money the government provides support to different projects.
“We are not opposed to providing support to coal projects, the prime minister has been very clear about that. There is a fund to look at different projects and look at different ways in which we can support, the lowest cost, most efficient use of a resource to deliver energy.”
Dutton said he was “not hung up about one sector or another” but was focused on getting an outcome on power prices.
The Queenslander also rebuked his state Nationals colleagues for causing a ruckus on energy. “People are worried about energy costs, they are worried about taxation, they are worried about local roads, all of those issues that are important to their businesses, keeping those doors open.
“When we are talking about ourselves, we are not talking about issues that are important to people and it becomes a distraction,” he said.
Dutton said if the government was “obsessing about ourselves or contemplating this or that” it was not sufficiently focused on attacking Labor.
A fight about coal has fractured the government over the course of the past week, with Nationals brawling with Liberals and among themselves about what projects should be supported by the government underwriting program.
Nationals want the government to produce a shortlist of projects before the election, but many Liberals are completely opposed to the government nominating taxpayer support for a new coal project before the coming election, fearing it will cost them electoral support.