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The Week in Politics

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The stand-off between Malcolm Turnbull and Tony Abbott this week has made one thing crystal clear: Malcolm Turnbull’s future will be determined by how he handles the energy issue.

Abbott has set out the benchmarks: the price of electricity must fall and there must be no blackouts resulting from supply interruptions.

The former Prime Minister has set out his mechanism to achieve the objectives: freeze the renewable energy target at its current level and increase the supply of coal fired power.

He is indifferent about policies to reduce carbon dioxide emissions.

On the other hand the Prime Minister has endorsed the Finkel Report which gives emissions reduction priority over cost and reliability.

The emphasis is on renewable energy with storage which will significantly increase the cost of electricity.

The demands of the electorate are simple: they want cheap and reliable power and emissions reductions.

Energy Minister Josh Frydenberg has been given the thankless task of crafting a solution that meets these requirements.

If he’s successful he will have single-handedly saved the Turnbull government and will be well on the way to being the next Liberal Prime Minister.

If he fails he’ll probably be toast.

The tricky point for the Energy Minister will be avoiding the ideological debates which promote renewables on one side or coal on the other but which make it impossible to craft a solution that fits with all three requirements.

On the other hand a clean and effective outcome will almost certainly be rejected by Labor and the Greens in the Senate because they won’t accept anything less than 50% renewables by 2030 and will want a total embargo on new coal fired power stations.

A technology neutral solution will be an anathema.

In the event that the Senate rejects the government’s solution the Coalition should make it the centrepiece of its next election campaign.

Tony Abbott’s right about that: cheap reliable electricity is an election winner.

From the Gallery – July 7, 2017
• On Monday the Minister for International Development and the Pacific, Senator Concetta Fierravanti- Wells, held talks with Fijian Prime Minster Frank Bainimarama in Fiji on the margins of the Climate Action Pacific Partnership event in Suva. She was also joined by New Zealand’s Deputy Prime Minister, Paula Bennett.

•The Minister for Defence Marise Payne discussed the growing strength and depth of the Australia – United States alliance with a US Congressional Delegation during her visit to the United States on Monday.

• The Korean Embassy hosted the Global Leaders Forum with the local Korean community on Monday night. The Forum was addressed by Liberal Member for Kurrajong, Elizabeth Lee.

• Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce visited the Holy See on Tuesday, the first visit by an Australian Minister since 2014. He met with Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin and Cardinal Peter Turkson, Prefect for Promoting Integral Human Development. He also held discussions focusing on Australia’s global moral responsibility to increase food production as well as meeting our

international obligations to resettle refugees from the Middle East.

• On Tuesday the Assistant Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources, Senator Anne Ruston, met in Honiara with a delegation from the Pacific Islands Forum Fisheries Agency to discuss Australian fish. On Wednesday she ratified the Niue Treaty Subsidiary Agreement on behalf of Australia.

• Minister for Industry, Innovation and Science Senator Arthur Sinodinos announced the release of the program guidelines for the new $47.5 million Advanced Manufacturing Growth Fund on Wednesday.

• The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade announced on Wednesday that Spain and Australia will celebrate 50 years of diplomatic relations this year.

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