'We now have a clear mandate': Coalition holds the line on climate plan

The Morrison government is ramping up pressure on Labor to support a bipartisan approach to energy and emissions policy as it rebuffs critics of its climate change plan in industry and the environmental movement.

Energy Minister Angus Taylor has dismissed calls from climate change groups to reach a deal on  Labor's proposals to cut greenhouse gas emissions, insisting his opponents recognise the will of the people and back the government's plan.

The call came after likely Labor deputy leader Richard Marles admitted on Monday he had been "tone deaf" to welcome the end of coal, in a comment that signals an opposition rethink on its wider policy on climate change.

Mr Taylor ruled out reviving the full National Energy Guarantee (NEG) as a way to cut emissions despite a suggestion from former Liberal deputy leader Julie Bishop on election night that the option should be on the table.


"We're firmly committed to the policies we took to the election. We now have a clear mandate to implement those policies – and we'll be doing so," Mr Taylor said in an interview.


"There's now an opportunity for a bipartisan approach to energy and emissions.

"Labor should adopt our plan, which was supported by the Australian people, and I know industry wants to see bipartisanship. Now's the opportunity."

Industry groups including the Business Council of Australia backed the NEG last year when it was put forward by former prime minister Malcolm Turnbull and endorsed by his cabinet and party room, only for the emissions target within the policy to be scrapped at the height of the August leadership crisis.

Labor went to the election with a policy to revive the guarantee and use a market mechanism to cut emissions, a stance backed by some industry executives who were uneasy at Mr Taylor's insistence on using the existing Emissions Reduction Fund to reduce carbon.

Mr Taylor insists the public funding in the Emissions Reduction Fund will help meet the government target to reduce carbon output by 26 per cent by 2030.



Asked if the government would consider using the NEG to reduce emissions, he said: "We don't need to." He said another feature of the guarantee, a reliability obligation on electricity generators, would come into force as planned on July 1.

"Now is the opportunity for Labor to accept the policy we took to the election and create a bipartisan approach to these issues," Mr Taylor said.

While industry executives had speculated that Prime Minister Scott Morrison might appoint a new energy minister, he instead confirmed Mr Taylor in the position in the cabinet reshuffle on Sunday.


Mr Taylor's priorities include signing contracts with 12 projects shortlisted to gain government support to add new generation to the electricity grid, as well as legislating price benchmarks to start on July 1 to act on recommendations from the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission.

"We've been clear that we'll bring as much supply and competition into the market that we need to get back to a reasonable wholesale price," he said.

"If these shortlisted projects provide us with enough, so be it. If we need more, we'll look for more."

On calls from the Nationals to support a new coal-fired power station in Queensland to provide baseload power, he said the government would take a "balanced" approach.

"Coal has a role to play in our energy mix. Renewables are playing an increasing role, so whichever way you look at it there will be balance," Mr Taylor said.

"Picking fuels is much less important than focusing on outcomes, so we'll focus on the emissions and price and reliability outcomes we want."

Ms Bishop, speaking on a television panel on election night, questioned the Coalition's decision to dump the NEG.

Incoming Labor leader Anthony Albanese said on Monday that "the science is in" on climate change and that action was needed, but he left scope to change Labor policy on the mechanism to be used to do so.

"I am neither a climate sceptic nor am I a market sceptic when it comes to action on climate change, because I have listened to business and sat down with them," he said. "But the time for the ongoing conflict over these issues surely is over."

Labor has been stung by its defeat in Queensland electorates, where voters did not back the party's equivocal position on the Adani coal mine and greater ambition to cut emissions by 45 per cent by 2030.

Mr Marles accepted on Monday that the party suffered for his remarks in February that the collapse of the market for thermal coal was good "at one level" despite fears over job losses.

"The comments I made earlier this year were tone deaf and I regret them and I was apologising for them within a couple of days of making them," he told radio station 3AW.

Asked where he stood on Adani, Mr Marles said the party valued working people.

"Coal clearly is going to play a significant part of the future energy mix in Australia and it's clearly going to be a significant part of our economy," he said.

"And it's really important that we acknowledge that people who work in the coal industry need to be valued by us and that we thank and celebrate their work. That's important."

Woodside chief executive Peter Coleman will call on Tuesday for more agreement in Parliament on climate change and energy, an area where gas exporters face significant costs if a future government seeks to impose a market mechanism to reduce emissions.

"Our goal should be an approach to climate policy that is national, consistent with the Paris Agreement and which balances the environment and industries that support jobs and economic growth," Mr Coleman says in a draft of his speech to a gas industry conference.

"Once again, these are not competing goals but need to be aligned if outcomes are to be sustainable."

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