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Liberal MP slaps down Nationals over coal-fired power plant call

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An inner-city Liberal MP has repudiated his Nationals colleagues for calling for the federal government to fund a new coal-fired power plant.

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The government’s plan to underwrite new power generation has divided coalition MPs, with regional and urban MPs split on whether taxpayer money should go towards coal.

Liberal MP Tim Wilson, who holds the blue-ribbon Melbourne seat of Goldstein, said if coal projects stacked up financially the private sector would build them.

“I’m not a fan of the government getting involved and building a new coal-fired power station,” he told ABC radio today.

“I don’t believe that’s coalition policy or ever has been.”

This puts him directly at odds with six Queensland Nationals MP, who are demanding the federal government bankroll a coal-fired station in their state.

The rebels also want the government’s “big stick” energy bill put to a vote during budget week, despite the divestiture plan looking likely to lose.

Their calls have been supported by former Nationals leader Barnaby Joyce, who also wants Mr Morrison to use taxpayer funds on a new coal-fired power plant.

Mr Joyce rejected the prime minister’s claims that the Queensland state government wouldn’t give such a project the go-ahead.

“Let the Labor Party say so,” he said.

However, Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk has previously said that a new coal-fired power plant would keep power prices higher for 40 years.

Liberal MP Craig Kelly and Nationals MP Keith Pitt have both conceded they don’t know how taxpayer money may be used under the government’s underwriting plan.

While the expressions of interest may be subject to confidentiality agreements, voters are looking for clear answers on the hot topic of coal, particularly in the lead up to an election.

Mr Pitt – one of the six Queensland Nationals who are sparking up about energy – insists he is not wedded to coal, but finds his government’s policy hard to articulate.

The MP hopes to take something “tangible” to the next election.

-AAP

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