Malcolm Turnbull says everyone in the coalition, including Tony Abbott, is committed to the renewable energy target remaining until 2020, when a new policy will take its place.
The former prime minister has reportedly told colleagues he would not vote for a clean energy target – recommended by Chief Scientist Alan Finkel – as the next policy if it came to parliament.
Mr Abbott said in an article for The Australian it would be “unconscionable for a government that was elected promising to scrap the carbon tax and to end Labor’s climate change obsessions” to legislate a clean energy target.
He is advocating an end to all subsidies for renewable energy and a rollout of new coal-fired power.
Mr Turnbull said the renewable energy target was amended and legislated in 2015 when Mr Abbott was prime minister.
“It’s part of the law and we are committed to that,” Mr Turnbull told reporters in Brisbane on Wednesday.
“What we are considering at the moment is the arrangements we put in place after 2020 to ensure affordable and reliable energy and, of course, to meet our emissions reduction obligations.”
He said “everyone in the coalition, of which Mr Abbott is a member” was committed to delivering a post-2020 policy.
Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce said it was Mr Abbott’s call whether to cross the floor.
But there was a fundamental responsibility to ensure stable government.
“Tony Abbott does not want Bill Shorten and Tanya Plibersek running the country,” he told reporters in Canberra.
Assistant minister, Liberal senator Anne Ruston, said a “suite of measures” were on the table and differences of opinion within the coalition could be managed.
Senator Ruston said Mr Abbott was entitled to his view but she hoped he could be persuaded by a strong argument.
“I happen to disagree about the way he’s going about things but we just need to go through a process and I am sure the party room as it always does will come up with a decision that’s in the best interests of the Australian public for affordable and reliable power,” she told ABC radio.
Labor leader Bill Shorten said Mr Abbott was determined to “make Mr Turnbull’s life hell” while the energy crisis remained unresolved.
“The problem is that Mr Turnbull and Mr Abbott are so busy fighting each other that we see prices are skyrocketing and jobs are at risk,” Mr Shorten told reporters in Melbourne.
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