Nationals leader fires up over coal power

Michael McCormack says coal has to be part of the power generation mix


Politics
Australian Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack. Photo: AAP

Australian Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack. Photo: AAP

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Michael McCormack says coal has to be part of the power generation mix.

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Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack believes the competition watchdog has given the green light for the government to support new coal-fired plants.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission has recommended the government give financial certainty to new power plants, but didn't single out any particular technology.

The Nationals leader said the report showed coal was one technology the government should support if it moves to underwrite power generation.

"Coal has to be part of the mix. We've got plenty of it, we're exporting plenty of it, why don't we use more of it for our domestic power needs?" Mr McCormack told Sky News on Friday.

The government insists it is technology neutral and will let the market decide which forms of power generation come into the market.

Mr McCormack said coal created thousands of jobs, while also noting gas and other technologies had to be considered.

The Nationals leader support for coal is at odds with Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and other senior cabinet ministers who have been careful not to single out any form of power generation.

Resources Minister Matt Canavan, a Queensland Nationals senator, and coalition backbenchers are continuing to make the case for coal.

Cabinet minister Christopher Pyne says the government can't afford to be ideological.

"The ACCC didn't suggest the subsidy of a coal-fired power station," Mr Pyne told the Nine Network.

The watchdog's report claimed power prices could fall by about 25 per cent if all the recommendations were adopted by federal and state governments.

"That can only happen with the government's policy of not picking winners, but supporting all technological outcomes that put more power into the system," Mr Pyne said.

Finance Minister Mathias Cormann downplayed divisions on energy within the government, insisting the coalition was united on working to cut power bills.

"People are getting way too obsessed with the inputs when what we need to focus on is how do we best achieve lower more reliable energy supplies," Senator Cormann told Sky News.

He said the government's national energy guarantee would give coal-fired power its best chance to attract investment in years.

"If you pick winners, you push prices up," Senator Cormann said.

Labor frontbencher Anthony Albanese said no-one in the business community was interested in new coal-fired power plants.

"This is a fantasy of Tony Abbott and the far right of the Liberal Party," Mr Albanese told the Nine Network.

Australian Associated Press

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