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Under pressure PM to take "big stick" to energy companies


A “big stick” will be taken to energy companies in a bid to force immediate price reductions and win Malcolm Turnbull support for his national energy plan.

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But the prime minister is facing pressure from anonymous MPs who want him replaced with Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton, and the National Energy Guarantee axed.

The Daily Telegraph reports some anonymous MPs are urging Dutton to challenge Turnbull for the leadership.

“There are only two good outcomes here — either the energy policy is dead and we can go to the election fighting Labor on it, or Malcolm goes,” the News Corp publication cited an unnamed MP as saying.

Turnbull got his signature energy policy through the Coalition party room on Tuesday with “overwhelming” support, but a small group of MPs wanted him to do more to guarantee prices will drop.

Coalition frontbencher Christopher Pyne said the leadership was listening.

“That’s why the prime minister and the cabinet will propose a big stick approach to electricity prices next week, because we want to bring prices down too,” Pyne told the Nine Network today.

Finance Minister Mathias Cormann said the government was looking at “immediate” ways to bring power prices down.

“The prime minister is very aware and very conscious of the need to apply cost of living relief in the short term,” he told Sky News today.

But both senior ministers said there was no real push for Dutton to take over.

“I’m not aware of any such talk – nobody has raised that with me,” Cormann said.

Dutton on Thursday offered a lukewarm assessment of the energy policy, but refused invitations to publicly criticise the prime minister.

“Dutton is just a glove puppet for Tony Abbott – back there on the backbench causing all of this chaos,” Labor frontbencher Anthony Albanese told Nine.

Abbott in an opinion piece for News Corp newspapers also laid out his vision for cutting power prices, including dumping the Paris climate targets to which he signed up.

He is one of at least two Coalition MPs who promised to vote against the guarantee but other sceptics said they could be convinced if prices are lowered.

Deputy Nationals leader Bridget McKenzie said the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission’s recommendation for a default retail price offer could cut prices by 35 per cent.

The guarantee forces emissions to be cut by the Paris-mandated 26 per cent, but backbencher George Christensen will only vote for a 17 per cent target, while Labor wants 45 per cent.

WA Liberal MP Andrew Hastie is also among those reserving their right to cross the floor.

Others publicly raising concerns include Eric Abetz, Craig Kelly, Tony Pasin, Barry O’Sullivan, Kevin Andrews, Andrew Gee and Barnaby Joyce.


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