BlueScope Steel’s intervention comes as Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull is being challenged to stare down threats from his predecessor Tony Abbott over clean energy policy, while bipartisan support grows for a low emissions target.
Abbott warns the Federal Government will make a big mistake if it adopts a low emissions target that makes it hard to build new coal-fired power stations, arguing the Liberals need to be the party of cheap power.
But BlueScope Steel chief executive Paul O’Malley says it is absurd to rank one target over another.
O’Malley wants coal-fired power to be phased out through a low emissions target, not shut down through an emissions intensity scheme.
“We need, reliable affordable and security energy that meets appropriate emissions targets,” he said.
“If we just focus on one, which is what we’ve done for the last decade, we will see the destruction of Australia’s industrial base and that’s absurd.”
Labor has offered the Coalition an olive branch ahead of a major review of the national energy sector, due to be released on Friday, challenging the prime minister to defy his predecessor’s warning.
Opposition energy spokesman Mark Butler says Turnbull needs to be honest about the fact a low emissions target will be a version of carbon pricing which provides a boost to renewable energy.
“It’s an oxymoron to have a low emissions target scheme that provides a boost to coal-fired power, so if that’s the condition of Tony Abbott’s support, it’s not going to be able to come off,” Butler told ABC radio on Thursday.
Abbott insists the Liberals need to be the party of cheap power, arguing Australia’s electricity system’s primary objective was to provide affordable reliable energy, not to reduce emissions.
But Butler says it is time to bridge the ideological divide over energy policy.
“We’ve got a very serious energy crisis in this country which business groups and individual businesses tell us is threatening the jobs and the livelihoods of literally tens of thousands of Australian workers,” he said.
“We need to do all that we can to see whether finally we can end this ideological dispute between the two major parties and find a bipartisan way forward.”
O’Malley says it is critical for Australia to grasp the opportunities presented from chief scientist Alan Finkel’s report, pursuing an appropriate and challenging emissions target.
“We need multi-party support for a clean energy target that is technology agnostic that deals with affordability, security and reliability,” he said.
“This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to get the policy right, it’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to think about affordability, reliability, security and emissions reductions.”
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