Barnaby Joyce has hijacked his own government’s bill to continue his campaign for coal-fired power, forcing his colleagues to vote for or against his idea.
The former Nationals leader turned backbencher has pounced on Energy Minister Angus Taylor’s bill, which alters the Clean Energy Finance Corporation.
Mr Joyce wants the green bank to invest taxpayer money in coal.
The government is already facing stiff opposition to the bill – which will see public money go towards gas projects – with multiple amendments proposed by Labor, the Greens and independent MPs.
The bill is considered a priority for the government as a pipeline of projects need it to be stamped into law in order for them to begin.
But it has disappeared from the parliamentary program as the government ponders how to approach the issue.
Mr Joyce’s amendment was a surprise to Mr Taylor.
“This is the first time we have seen this amendment,” a spokesman for the minister said in a statement.
“It is important that we take an opportunity to consider what has been put forward.”
In a reminder to Mr Joyce, the spokesman said the government had other avenues for supporting coal.
That includes the $4 million made available to Shine Energy in order to conduct a feasibility study for a new coal-fired power station in north Queensland, which was an election promise to appease the Nationals.
Labor’s energy spokesman Chris Bowen says the government must decide which fossil fuels the green bank will invest in.
“The chaos would be funny if it didn’t mean higher prices and lower reliability for households and businesses, and jeopardy for thousands of jobs,” he said.
Labor wants to ensure the CEFC can’t invest in fossil fuels, and says it will vote against the bill if that amendment is not supported by government.
Mr Joyce’s amendment goes against the Clean Energy Finance Corporation’s purpose, as its investments are not intended to go towards coal.
“What we are showing with these amendments is that we are unambiguous,” the Nationals MP told parliament on Tuesday evening.
“That we stand up for coal miners, that we stand up for coal-fired power. That we are willing to put our name to the paper and stand behind their jobs and their future.”
By introducing his amendment, Mr Joyce is forcing his colleagues to either vote for it – going against the government’s plan – or vote against him, which will increase climate tensions in the coalition.
The bill sets up a $1 billion fund which would then give the CEFC money to support projects that make the electricity system more reliable.
Mr Joyce says all energy options should be on the table, including a new coal-fired power station.