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Turnbull wins party support for energy plan

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Malcolm Turnbull has received the strong endorsement of the Coalition party room for his signature energy policy, after fending off last-minute attacks from predecessor Tony Abbott.

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It is understood Abbott was one of only a handful of Coalition MPs to speak against the National Energy Guarantee policy at the 2.5-hour closed-door meeting in Canberra today.

It is possible Abbott and those of similar mind could cross the floor when it comes to the legislation, which could make it a tight vote in the one-seat majority parliament if Labor also opposes it.

Starting in 2020, the NEG is designed to bring down energy bills by about $550 a year and requires retailers to source electricity that meets reliability and Paris Agreement emissions reduction targets.

Abbott had argued Coalition MPs would be “dead wrong” to back it. Former deputy prime minister Barnaby Joyce proposed an amendment to enforce price reductions.

The legislation setting an emissions reduction target of 26 per cent on 2005 levels by 2030 for the electricity sector is expected to be put to a teleconference of state energy ministers later today.

The states will be asked to agree to a four-week consultation process.

As well as rolling out the NEG, the Turnbull government is expected to underwrite new power generation projects, which could include coal-fired plants.

This is in line with one of 56 Australian Competition and Consumer Commission recommendations to cut power prices.

Labor leader Bill Shorten earlier told a caucus meeting the prime minister had surrendered to climate sceptics in the government.

“The only thing guaranteed to come out of today is higher power prices and less renewable energy. We have cobbled together today a Frankenstein’s monster of a policy,” he said.

“While Mr Turnbull goes around attacking Mr Abbott, Mr Turnbull is, in fact, giving in to a lot of Mr Abbott’s values when it comes to climate change and energy.”

Crossbench conservative senator Cory Bernardi believes the policy will push up prices.

“Unless they remove the barriers to nuclear power … and until they walk away from the Paris Agreement, they won’t have my vote,” the former Liberal senator told Sky News.

Trade Minister Steve Ciobo said walking away from the Paris deal would torpedo Australia’s chances of a free trade deal with the European Union, negotiations for which are underway.

– AAP

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