O’Brien: ‘Net zero emissions will cost Aussie livelihoods’
Wide Bay MP Llew O'Brien has claimed a national net zero emissions target "would cost hundreds of thousands of Australians their livelihoods", and most of those would come from regional towns.
The deputy house speaker's comments came amid reports he was among at least five government MPs moving to back a plan to make it easier for the government to invest cash into coal-fired power stations.
The move, developed by Senator Matt Canavan and moved by Barnaby Joyce would have hijacked a bill on the Clean Energy Finance Corporation - intended to create a $1 billion grid reliability fund - to also allow the investment body to fund high-energy low-emissions coal-fired power stations.
Reports dubbed it the "latest move from National party aligned MPs pushing back against the Liberals on coal and net zero emissions", while Liberal MP Craig Kelly had also voiced support for the amendment.
Mr O'Brien claimed a net zero emissions target would cost 400,000 Australians their jobs based on economic modelling in New Zealand.
"Most of those job losses would be in regional towns because it is our farming, mining and manufacturing industries that would be worst hit," he said.
"Coal remains our second biggest export and by far our largest source of electricity.
"Just this week it was revealed that surging Australian coal exports could increase Australian Government revenues by $2 billion a year, which just happens to be the cost of the increase in the Jobseeker payment. If we shut down coal we won't be able to pay the bills."
Mr O'Brien said renewable energy investments like the Forest Wind Project in the Tuan Forest were "great", but could not be relied on.
"We can't rely on them alone because they only work when the wind blows and the sun shines," he said.
"If we don't have power stations that can work all the time our factories will shut down and people won't be able to keep warm when they need to.
"So to attract investment in reliable power we think we should allow the Clean Energy Finance Corporation to invest in High Efficiency, Low Emission coal fired power stations.
"These modern clean coal power stations will lower emissions, by about 25 per cent compared to an old coal fired power station, and provide us with the affordable and reliable power we need to bring back manufacturing jobs back to Australia."