Malcolm Turnbull has been told to stop talking down coal by Matt Kean — days after he was appointed to a government job promoting net-zero emissions.
Malcolm Turnbull has been told to stop talking down coal by Matt Kean — days after he was appointed to a government job promoting net-zero emissions.

Mal-content at Turnbull’s anti-coal comments

The Liberal Party is in open warfare over Matt Kean's appointment of Malcolm Turnbull to a government board position, with multiple MPs warning the ex-Prime Minister's anti-coal rhetoric risks losing the Coalition the critical Upper Hunter by-election.

It comes as The Daily Telegraph can reveal NSW Energy Minister Mr Kean told his political ally to stop talking down coal in his position as chair of the NSW Net-Zero Emissions and Clean Economy Board.

Former prime minister Malcolm Turnbull has been making anti-coal comments after being appointed as chair of the NSW Net-Zero Emissions and Clean Economy Board. Picture: NCA NewsWire/MICK TSIKASVIA
Former prime minister Malcolm Turnbull has been making anti-coal comments after being appointed as chair of the NSW Net-Zero Emissions and Clean Economy Board. Picture: NCA NewsWire/MICK TSIKASVIA

Mr Turnbull's appointment sparked an inundation of angry calls from the party's rank and file, with multiple Liberals now "ropeable" about the former PM's role.

One backbencher has now taken the dramatic step of speaking out publicly against Mr Turnbull's appointment, declaring the role should have gone to "anybody else but Malcolm".

"Within hours of him being ­announced he's already blowing holes in the Coalition," Liberal MP Lee Evans told The Daily Telegraph.

The comments follow Mr Turnbull's call for a freeze on new NSW coal mine approvals, just days after Cabinet approved his appointment.

Speaking to the ABC, Mr Turnbull declared coal mine approvals in the state are "out of control".

He explicitly singled out the Upper Hunter, where the government is set to contest a crucial by-election after the resignation of under-fire former Nationals MP Michael Johnsen, as a place subject to "extraordinary devastation" by coal mines.

Mr Evans, whose Heathcote electorate takes in the Peabody coal mine in Helensburgh, said he wanted to ­ensure metallurgical coal mines continue.

"I've got whole towns that rely on steel making coal," he said.

He is one of multiple Liberals who are "ropeable" at the appointment.

That list includes Libs from the party's moderate faction, led by Mr Kean. At least one MP has expressed concerns directly to Premier Gladys Berejiklian's office.

Multiple MPs also told the Telegraph that the rank and file Liberals are furious at the appointment.

NSW Minister for Energy and Environment Matt Kean has he has firmly told Mr Turnbull that his state supports coal. Picture: The Australian/Bianca De Marchi
NSW Minister for Energy and Environment Matt Kean has he has firmly told Mr Turnbull that his state supports coal. Picture: The Australian/Bianca De Marchi

They also argue Mr Turnbull's support for a freeze on new coal mines is the latest example of the former PM "campaigning" against the Coalition.

Despite the backbench anger, it is understood there was no substantial opposition to Mr Turnbull's appointment in Monday's cabinet meeting.

While some questions were raised, Ministers ultimately supported it.

However, Mr Turnbull's anti-coal comments on Wednesday have ­already sparked a rebuke from Mr Kean, who called the former PM to tell him to stop talking outside his brief.

"I've made it clear to Malcolm that the NSW government supports the coal industry in the Hunter," Mr Kean said.

"His job is to make sure the community reaps the benefits of new ­opportunities that are emerging."

It comes as both major parties sought to play down expectations of a win in the upcoming Upper Hunter by-election, which will be contested by One Nation and the Shooters, Fishers and Farmers party.

Premier Gladys Berejiklian effectively admitted the Coalition cannot win the by-election, which was last night set down for May 22 after Mr Johnsen quit following a sex worker's rape claims against him, which he vigorously denies.

"I have no doubt we won't retain the seat," Ms Berejiklian said.

The Coalition holds Upper Hunter with a margin of just 2.6 per cent - past by-election performances indicate they would struggle to retain it.

Labor is actively considering running a coalminer as a candidate but leader Jodi McKay played down expectations: "The National Party has held this seat for about 90 years. I actually think it will take a miracle for the ­National Party to lose this seat."

 

 

 

Originally published as Mal-content at Turnbull's anti-coal comments



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