Queensland National Matt Canavan has signaled he’s ready to brave his party room if a majority accepts a net-zero commitment as his Victorian colleague Darren Chester – who supports an ambitious mid-century goal – takes a break from that National Party will insert.
Tensions erupted within the junior coalition partner on Sunday when Canavan told Guardian Australia that he was just warming up to opposing any net-zero pledges made by the Morrison government through 2050, and Chester confirmed one Pause due to profound differences with the current leadership of the Nationals.
After the National Party was torn apart and the Cop26 Summit in Glasgow came to an end, Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce and Vice Chairman of the Nationals David Littleproud held separate television interviews on Sunday morning.
When asked for his opinion on a net zero commitment, Joyce initially told ABC that no coal jobs should be lost “because of domestic politics.” But shortly after that statement, he said protecting coal jobs was “not the bottom line”.
On Sky News, Littleproud leaned on a net zero commitment, arguing that his party must be “pragmatic.” Littleproud also insisted that everyone should stand behind this decision if a majority of the Nationals ultimately endorsed net zero when the issue was discussed in the party hall.
“The party room always works by majority,” said Littleproud. “There are always different views within the party room, that’s good, that’s this beautiful thing called democracy and we should encourage it, not discourage it.
“Maybe in the end people have a different point of view, as I sometimes have in this party room, [but] they will come out and support what the party said ”.
Littleproud reiterated the arguments that Treasurer Josh Frydenberg made last week about the economic case for a net zero commitment. He said Scott Morrison promised a “technology path” for transition.
He said Morrison had “clearly gone away and figured it out by creating this technology roadmap that will protect regional Australia – that’s what he said from the start, and I’ll take him at his word, I have no reason to not to do ”.
When asked to respond to Littleproud’s statement that the party room was in tune, Canavan – who is relentlessly opposed to a net zero commitment – told Guardian Australia: “I am firmly against net-zero emissions – check out just look at the disaster the UK is going through.
“I haven’t even started fighting,” Canavan said.
After Frydenberg’s seminal speech last week, another Queensland National, Resource Secretary Keith Pitt, also signaled a dissenting opinion, stating that jobs in the resource industry were more important than “demands from abroad or the United Nations.”
But Chester – who is increasingly concerned about Joyce’s reluctance to contain his close supporters – as well as former party’s leader Michael McCormack, argued last week that the Nationals either support Net Zero or take an open-minded approach.
Chester has told the Guardian Australia that he is not leaving the National Party but is just taking a break. In a statement released on Sunday, the MP, who lost his seat on the first bench when Joyce returned to leadership of the Nationals, said he would reconsider his position before federal parliament resumes in mid-October.
He said he would continue to support the Morrison administration, but the decision to resign came after “months of frustration at the repeated failure of the leadership to even try to dispel some of the more disrespectful and offensive views expressed by a minority of colleagues to mitigate ”. .
The government plans to announce updated climate commitments next month, ahead of Cop26 in November. Government sources have told Guardian Australia that the Minister for Energy and Emissions Reduction, Angus Taylor, is privately telling colleagues that the government may try to appease the Nationals who are firmly against the 2050 target with a stop before Cop26 .
The government could refuse to explicitly approve the specific mid-century commitment while announcing a roadmap of measures that would put Australia on the net-zero path.
But this landing point would be unacceptable to metropolitan liberals who believe Australia needs to make that transition, rather than pretending to make the transition.
Morrison is also facing diplomatic pressure from the United States, the United Kingdom and European countries to sign net zero and make Australia’s 2030 commitment more ambitious.
Morrison told Seven Network on Sunday that Australia had to go to net zero and “we have been working on a plan to achieve that”.
“I have been working to bring my government together to come up with a plan that we can present to the Australian people and show the Australian people to say that we can deal with this, we can do this, but we can” do without having to tax the people, ”said Morrison.
“We can do this without having to close our industries and regions. My job was to bring my government together on this issue and focus on how we can do it. “
Joyce didn’t rule out reaching a deal with Morrison on Sunday, but he refused to say exactly what his red lines were.
The deputy prime minister said Australia was unable to stop exporting coal because of the proceeds from offshore fossil fuel sales. He said the Nationals must ensure the economic well-being of regional cities that rely on revenues from the coal industry.
When told that Chester was taking a break from the Nationals for failing to reprimand outspoken colleagues like Queensland backbencher George Christensen, Joyce said he was unable to do “gaffer tape” [Christensen’s] Open your mouth ”.
When asked if he would try to resolve his differences with Chester, Joyce said, “We have a party meeting every Monday.”