Australia is the land of plenty for renewable energy – so there is no need for anyone to propose new coal-fired power stations.

Yet we keep hearing politicians talking about new coal.

In the interests of transparency – and so everyone knows what our elected representatives are saying and doing on this important issue – we have pulled together this page setting out where some of the main political players stand on new coal.

(Authorised by Brendan Sydes, EJA, 60 Leicester St Carlton 3053)

Federal politicians

Josh Frydenberg, Treasurer and former Federal Environment & Energy Minister

When Energy ­Security Board chairwoman Dr Kerry Schott said there was no longer an investment case to build new coal-fired power stations in Australia ­because “the cost of coal is always going to be more than the cost of wind and sun”, The Australian reported that Environment & Energy Minister Josh Frydenberg backed her comments and said new coal stations faced “an uncertain utilisation rate and return on capital”. Minister Frydenberg also said “investors had signalled they were more interested in upgrading existing coal plants, for which the upfront capital costs had already been paid, than building new ones”.

But in June 2018 comments by Minister Frydenberg appeared to leave the door open to new coal. The Guardian quoted Minister Frydenberg as saying, “I would welcome a new coal-fired power station for our country because it supplies reliable baseload power and it has served us well in the past and will continue to serve us well in the future.”

Scott Morrison, Prime Minister

The new PM made his support of coal clear back in 2017 when, as treasurer, he brought a lump of coal in to wave around parliament. Since coming into the role of PM, Morrison has sent a clear signal that his government is prepared to provide taxpayer support for both new and existing coal plants, opening registrations of interest in its controversial new power generation underwriting program. He government has also most recently approved the groundwater management plan for the proposed Adani coal mine. 

Angus Taylor, Minister for Energy

Angus Taylor has not only pushed for an incrase in non-renewable energy sources, but has indicated that his government is prepared to indemnify any new coal and gas plants against the risk of carbon pricing in the future, an extraordinary move that has been slammed by the likes of Oliver Yates, the former head of the Clean Energy Finance Corporation.

Melissa Price, Minister for the Environment

Melissa Price recently approved the groundwater management plan for the Adani mega mine, a key step in progressing the mine, allegedly under pressure from the Queensland LNP.

The Australian Conservation Foundation’s Christian Slattery said “Coal-loving Coalition MPs appear to have strongarmed the Environment Minister into granting Adani access to Queensland’s precious groundwater on the eve of the election”.

Matt Canavan, Resources Minister

Matt Canavan recently came under fire for saying to school students protesting climate change: “The best thing you’ll learn about going to a protest is how to join the dole queue. Because that’s what your future life will look like, up in a line asking for a handout, not actually taking charge for your life and getting a real job.” He then went on to suggest children should be at school, learning about mining.

Often described as the cabinet’s strongest advocate for the coal industry, Minister Canavan, a National Senator from Queensland, says he does not believe government subsidies are needed to build new coal-fired power stations. “It [coal-fired power] competes on its own two feet and if we just allow the market to work, and that’s what the government wants to do, and end a lot of the subsidisation of other types of energy, coal-fired power will work,” Minister Canavan told The Australian in April 2018.

On 31 July 2018 the Courier Mail reported that Minister Canavan had ‘sent renegade Queensland MP George Christensen to formally ask the ­Japanese Government to build a new coal-fired power station in Australia’.

Craig Kelly, Member for Hughes

Craig Kelly has been at the forefront of the Monash Forum’s push to boost coal’s image and see new coal-fired power stations built in Australia. He is also quoted saying that to demonise coal in Australia is an ‘act of treason’. 

Tony Abbott and the ‘Monash Forum’

The former PM is a big fan of coal. In 2018 Mr Abbott, along with former ministers Eric Abetz and Kevin Andrews and backbench energy committee chair Craig Kelly, has launched the ‘Monash Forum’, an informal government faction pushing for public money to be put towards new coal-fired power. The group reportedly contains former deputy PM Barnaby Joyce and up to 11 of his Nationals colleagues. The Monash Forum’s manifesto has been described as “coal subsidies good, renewable subsidies or targets bad”.

Abbott’s views are perhaps best summarised when he said “We are damaging our economy in an attempt to save the planet in 100 years’ time, and I don’t think our children will thank us if we damage their future in order to make the world a bit colder for our grandchildren.”

Federal Nationals

The Australian reported that the Federal Nationals are demanding the construction of “a minimum of three” new baseload power stations… advocating for the creation of a $5 billion fund to “ensure (a) reliable energy mix is delivered to Australian electricity users in the short, medium and long term”. Only coal, gas or traditional hydro projects capable of delivering electricity “24 hours a day, seven days a week, regardless of weather conditions” would be ­eligible for assistance under the proposal. The equity fund is aimed at the delivery of at least three new baseload power stations with a minimum capacity of 1200 megawatts.

Keith Pitt, Member for Hinkler

Keith Pitt is part of a group of 6 National Party MPs who have called on Angus Taylor to commit funding for one or more new coal-fired power stations in Queensland. Pitt has commented saying he will always put power prices before the Paris Agreement.

Federal Labor

Federal Labor has indicated it would retire coal-fired power plants and never fund new ones. A Labor-steered Senate select committee recommended the government “stop providing public financing for new coal-fired power plants, noting such public support would not represent value for taxpayer money, violate notions of competitive neutrality and would not be consistent with meeting international emissions reduction objectives”.

In July 2018 the Australian Financial Review reported that Opposition Leader Bill Shorten had repudiated the idea of taxpayers supporting coal-fired power generation. “How long do you think it takes to build new coal power stations? You don’t just go down to Kmart and get a coal-fired power station off the shelf,” Mr Shorten was quoted in the newspaper. “So what we’ve got, is we’ve got a debate which is about placating the knuckle draggers of the cave-dwelling right of the Liberal Party, promising mirage coal-fired power stations, which cost billions of dollars, all because Mr Turnbull hasn’t got the intestinal fortitude to back in renewable energy as part of the energy mix.”

Mark Butler, shadow minister for climate change and energy

Mark Butler has a petition on his website, ‘Say no to coal’, opposing the idea of a coal-fired power station for the Lefevre Peninsula. In April 2018 Mr Butler said “The market has made its position very clear. Fourteen months ago … all of the large energy companies indicated, to use their words, that new coal-fired power stations were ‘uninvestable’ and ‘unbankable’. The only business figure who indicated any interest in new coal-fired power stations was Clive Palmer, no one else.”

On 27 June 2018 Mr Butler told ABC Radio National Breakfast, “The idea of new coal-fired power stations in Australia is a fantasy.”

Anthony Albanese, shadow cabinet minister

The shadow minister for infrastructure, transport, cities and regional development has said “coal-fired power stations are beyond their life expectancy” and that he believes Australia should follow the global trend towards renewable energy.

Pauline Hanson’s One Nation

Pauline Hanson wants a new coal-fired power station to be built at Collinsville, north of Mackay. Ms Hanson has said she wants taxpayers to contribute $1.5 billion to the project.

George Christensen, member for Dawson

The outspoken member for Dawson is a keen proponent of new coal-fired power. “The people that I talk to are more interested in affordables than renewables,” Mr Christensen wrote in Mackay’s Daily Mercury. “That’s why I’m continuing the push for a clean coal-fired power station in the North.”

On 31 July 2018 the Courier Mail reported that Minister Canavan had ‘sent renegade Queensland MP George Christensen to formally ask the ­Japanese Government to build a new coal-fired power station in Australia’.

NSW politicians

Gladys Berejiklian, NSW Premier

Premier Berejiklian is open to the idea of new coal-fired power stations in NSW and has not ruled out the possibility that her government might contribute funding to a new coal-burning plant. “We also appreciate that some members of the public are asking government to look at a high-energy low-emission coal-fired power station,” Ms Berejiklian told budget estimates in September 2017. Asked if she was prepared to “fund one of those”, she said: “I’m not going to rule it out”.

John Barilaro, NSW Deputy Premier

Deputy Premier and Leader of the Nationals in New South Wales, John Barilaro, wants taxpayers to pay for the construction of a new coal-fired power station. Mr Barilaro made these comments in November 2017: “Why can’t the government build it? We could always on-sell it later but we need to disrupt the energy sector and I think Australian people and Australian industry are jack of governments not showing leadership.” The NSW Nationals have resolved to fund more coal-burning power stations in NSW, a move that is at odds with the wishes of most voters in the Northern Rivers region, according to the Nature Conservation Council.

Don Harwin, NSW Energy Minister

State Energy Minister Don Harwin and other NSW Liberals are reported to have spoken against Mr Barililo’s proposal for the public to fund new coal-fired power. Mr Harwin has declared it is time to move on from the notion of ‘baseload’ power as essential to the reliability of the future grid.

Victorian politicians

Andrews Labor Government in Victoria

The Andrews Government released a statement on the future uses of coal in July 2017. It said decisions regarding new uses of brown coal will be made against the backdrop of Australia’s commitments to the Paris agreement and Victoria’s target of net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. However, “there is strong investor interest in using our valuable coal resources to make alternative high value, low emission products for domestic and international markets. These projects could provide new economic development and trade opportunities, bringing high-skilled jobs and investment to the Latrobe Valley and Gippsland.”

This statement commits to set an emissions standard for new brown coal projects (which would not apply to projects already submitted), implement new restrictions on when new coal mines may be used to supply new power stations, and adopt an ‘open for business approach to supporting new investment and research in projects using coal’.

The Andrews Labor Government is a co-sponsor of a project that may prolong the life of the coal industry in Victoria. The pilot project, announced in April 2018, will see brown coal from the Latrobe Valley converted to liquefied hydrogen and transported to Japan.

Lily D’Ambrosio, Victorian Environment & Energy Minister

Minister D’Ambrosio has not been vocal on the future of coal power. She did tell RenewEconomy, “at a point in time we will see reduction in brown coal, in fact that has started now in Victoria”. Minister D’Ambrosio also anticipated that new energy capacity that will be built in the future will come ‘overwhelmingly’ from renewable energy sources.

But the minister appears reticent to make any commitments regarding coal. The Age reported: “Energy Minister Lily D’Ambrosio wasn’t keen to talk about closing coal-fired power stations on Wednesday, insisting that coal will remain a big part of Victoria’s energy mix for many years to come.”

Matthew Guy, Victorian Liberal Opposition Leader

According to the Ararat Advertiser, when asked about rising power prices, Mr Guy said Victoria needed to develop ‘clean coal’ as well as renewable energy. “We will make sure (coal power stations) are open to at least 2030 to make sure we have a sensible way to transition to either new baseload coal technology, which is cleaner, or to renewables, whatever is available at the time.”

The Australian reported in April 2017 that Mr Guy said he would: “ensure the Loy Yang and Yallourn power stations would continue burning brown coal if he became premier… I will not allow our coal resour­ces to be wasted, I will not allow such economic advantages to Victoria to be kept in the ground for the sake of ideology. We should be powering our state through the 21st century.” Mr Guy also intends to scrap the Victorian Renewable Energy Target if elected Premier.

Peter Walsh, Victorian Nationals Leader

Victorian Nationals leader Peter Walsh supports the construction of a new coal-fired power station in the Latrobe Valley was a party policy priority. In September 2017 he said: “The Victorian Nationals believe the development of a new generation High Efficiency Low Emissions (HELE) power station is essential for Victoria, before another of the current Latrobe Valley generators close… The Victorian Nationals are committed to working with the Federal Government, industry and the Latrobe Valley to ensure the right policy settings and investment certainty are put in place to investigate such a plant.”

David Southwick, Victorian shadow minister for energy

Mr Southwick supports (in fact, launched) the Committee for Gippsland’s Strategic Plan for 2018-20. This business plan prioritised a new coal-fired power station in the Latrobe Valley.  Mr Southwick was quoted in the Latrobe Valley Express, saying, “the Labor government could learn a few things from the committee, particularly when it comes to energy when there has been no plan for energy, affordability or security.”

Mr Southwick opposes Victoria’s renewable energy target and wants the 44-year-old Yallourn power station to stay open until 2032.  Mr Southwick supports Coal Energy Australia’s proposal to re-fit the old Morwell power station so it could use coal to create new products.

Dale Harriman, Liberal candidate for the state seat of Morwell

Current Latrobe City councillor Dale Harriman has said he would protect the Latrobe Valley’s brown coal industry if he wins the seat of Morwell at November’s state election. Mr Harriman supports the construction of a new coal-fired power station: “There’s a spot we can put two units right now at 550 kilowatts each… it already has the infrastructure in place and… that’s what I’ll be looking at and that’s what I’ll be pushing that we need in this area.”

Sheridan Bond, Nationals candidate for the state seat of Morwell

“You can’t shut down Hazelwood and take away 25 per cent of base load power and not replace it with something else,” Ms Bond was quoted saying in the Latrobe Valley Express. “I don’t believe it can be found on a model based solely on wind and solar, it will come from a balanced mix. We’ve got a vast coal resource here, hundreds of years of coal – we need to use that as effectively and efficiently as we possibly can.” Ms Bond also supports the Committee for Gippsland’s report which prioritises the construction of a new coal power station in the Latrobe Valley.

Mark Richards, Labor candidate for the state seat of Morwell

Mr Richards, a former worker at the closed Hazelwood power station, wrote in The Guardian in March 2017, “We know that all the coal power stations have grim prospects. Unless something like carbon capture and storage becomes much more viable as a way to massively reduce global warming emissions from coal power, they will close.”

Queensland politicians

Annastacia Palaszczuk, Queensland Premier

Premier Palaszczuk is opposed to new coal-fired power stations. “It would take seven years to build a new coal-fired power station, we already have a young energy fleet of coal-fired power stations here, providing not just Queensland with energy but exporting to other states,” Ms Palaszczuk was quoted by The Australian before the last state election. “It’s very clear Queensland does not need a new coal-fired power station.”

Deb Frecklington, Queensland Opposition Leader

Ms Frecklington released her energy policy in June 2018. In it she talks about needing to “get the balance right between baseload generation and renewable energy generation”. Support for a new coal-fired power station would seem incompatible with her energy policy, which says an “LNP Government would mandate investment by our government-owned energy companies in renewable energy generation. We need to transition to a future beyond coal.”

Ken O’Dowd, member for Flynn

Mr O’Dowd, who is a member of the Monash Forum (see above), wants a new coal-fired power station built in Gladstone. “We have a thriving aluminium industry so we are one of the biggest users of electricity,” Mr O’Dowd told the Gladstone Observer. “We’ve got coal at our doorstep, we’ve got salt water to do the cooling – places like Tarong have to have water pumped – and we have the overhead network already in place,” he said. “And there’s land available.”

Dale Last, Queensland shadow minister for mines and North Queensland

Dale Last wrote about his support for a new coal-fired power station in the North Queensland Register: “Queensland and NSW has (sic) plenty of good quality coal to support the building of new coal-fired power stations,” Mr Last wrote. “We need to safeguard Australia’s competitive advantage in cheap and reliable electricity.  It’s vital for investment, growth and job creation.”

Steve Dickson, Queensland One Nation leader

Queensland One Nation Leader Steve Dickson wants a new coal-fired power station built in the north of the state. “Why is Australia exporting 85% of its coal each year so other countries can enjoy cheap electricity? It is nonsense. We need the coal here so Australians can afford electricity.”