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Thursday, 21 June 2018
Page: 3611

Energy


Senator PRATT (Western Australia) (14:22): My question is to the Minister representing the Prime Minister, Senator Cormann. In an article entitled 'Nats join revolt against energy guarantee', the assistant minister to the Prime Minister, Nationals MP Keith Pitt, has revealed:

… at least seven of the 21 Nationals MPs—and potentially more—had serious concerns with the NEG …

Why is the Prime Minister bothering to seek support for his latest energy policy from states and territories when not even his own assistant minister supports it?


Senator CORMANN (Western AustraliaLeader of the Government in the Senate, Minister for Finance, Special Minister of State and Vice-President of the Executive Council) (14:23): I'm sure that the outstanding member for Hinkler would be pleased to know that Senator Pratt is interested in what he has to say. He does an outstanding job; he stands up for his constituents in Hinkler extremely well, as every Liberal and Nationals senator and member of parliament, of course, does. What I would say to you is that Assistant Minister Pitt is absolutely, 100 per cent committed to the policy objectives of the Turnbull government—that is, lower electricity prices, more reliable energy supplies and meeting our emissions reduction targets in a way that is economically sensible and doesn't lead to statewide blackouts, as happened in the state of South Australia.

I know that the Labor Party is always more interested in the politics than in the policy, but on our side of parliament we are a vibrant coalition—

The PRESIDENT: Order, Senator Cormann. Senator Wong on a point of order.

Senator Wong: It was direct relevance, although perhaps the phrase 'vibrant coalition' will deal with seven of 21 Nationals MPs considering not supporting the NEG, which was the question.

The PRESIDENT: You've reminded the minister of the question. I consider that the minister is being relevant to the question in talking about the member quoted and about energy.

Senator CORMANN: The Liberal and National Party coalition is a strong, united and vibrant team, and we do engage in policy debate, because we are also committed to advancing the public interest, and long may that be the case, because it helps ensure that we make the best possible decisions for working families across Australia and for our economic security into the future.

The PRESIDENT: Senator Pratt, a supplementary question.







Senator PRATT (Western Australia) (14:25): Former Prime Minister Abbott yesterday refused to rule out crossing the floor if asked to vote for the National Energy Guarantee, saying, 'I hope it doesn't come to questions of crossing the floor.' How many of the Turnbull government's own members intend to cross the floor in the latest battle in its ongoing climate war?


Senator CORMANN (Western AustraliaLeader of the Government in the Senate, Minister for Finance, Special Minister of State and Vice-President of the Executive Council) (14:25): I'm sure Senator Pratt will be relieved to know that the coalition is a strong and united team and that we do engage in policy discussion. When legislation eventually comes forward it'll go through the normal processes and all will be revealed at that time, and I'm sure Senator Pratt will be watching very closely.

The PRESIDENT: Senator Pratt, a final supplementary question.



Senator PRATT (Western Australia) (14:26): Former Prime Minister Abbott went on to say:

It's a fundamental failure of process, stifling the proper debate that we should be able to have inside our party room.

Is Prime Minister Turnbull so scared of his own party room that he won't even allow a proper process and debate?


Senator CORMANN (Western AustraliaLeader of the Government in the Senate, Minister for Finance, Special Minister of State and Vice-President of the Executive Council) (14:26): I'm sure, again, that Senator Pratt will be very relieved to hear that we have great debates inside the coalition party room. Indeed, we had a great debate on the energy guarantee proposal when it first came forward. And you wouldn't be surprised to hear me say that from time to time the issue of the National Energy Guarantee comes up in conversation. So the conversation inside the coalition party room will continue, and I'm sure that you will watch very carefully when the legislation eventually comes forward. I look forward to Senator Pratt and the Labor Party supporting a policy that will lead to lower electricity prices and improved reliability rather than your discredited agenda, which would lead to higher electricity prices and less-reliable energy supplies.