The Nationals have finalised their list of demands of the Prime Minister, which will determine whether they can support a mid-century target of net-zero carbon emissions.
Debate has raged in Canberra throughout the last sitting week as to what concessions will need to be offered to the junior Coalition party to get its members to back the policy.
On Thursday evening, Nationals members and senators met to discuss their ongoing concerns about adopting the carbon emissions reduction policy, ahead of the Glasgow Climate Summit in less than a fortnight.
“The Nationals have been really clear what we are interested in ensuring and securing is a prosperous and sustainable future for our communities and the industries that underpin them,” Nationals Senate leader Bridget McKenzie said after the meeting.
“Now the process is our leader will take that document and discuss it with the Prime Minister.
“It’s obviously going to be confidential, as it should be, between two parties of government.”
The exact details of the demands remain under wraps, but it will likely cost the federal government billions of dollars in extra funding for regional communities and initiatives.
Senator McKenzie said her colleagues would meet again before Scott Morrison jets off for the G20 in Rome and the COP26 talks in Scotland at the end of next week, hopeful negotiations may have progressed.
She said it was now up to Barnaby Joyce, the Deputy Prime Minister and Nationals leader, to sort out the finer details with Mr Morrison.
“Sunday afternoon is when our party room will be considering the matter further,” she said.
Some Nationals remain opposed to adopting a net zero target, with Queensland senator Matt Canavan chief among them.
His position has not shifted during the week of debate and will not change regardless of any concessions the Nationals get.
“I don’t think this is the right choice for Australia and that’s what I’ll be continuing to prosecute,” he said.
“But I also recognise the good efforts of many of the people in the party room who are doing their best as well, for regional Australia.”
Coalition congeniality at risk
Earlier in the week, Senator McKenzie warned things would get “ugly” within the Coalition if the Prime Minister took the net zero target to Glasgow without the endorsement of the Nationals.
Senator Canavan was explicitly asked whether that ugliness could stretch to tearing up the Coalition agreement between the Liberals and the Nationals.
“The relationship we have with them is a business one and you only continue a business relationship while it’s beneficial for both,” he said.
“And if there comes a point where it’s not beneficial for both — well, I’ve never had any compunction about saying, well, we go our own way.”
Senator Canavan’s position is not necessarily the view of the broader party room, with some Nationals more sober in their assessment about the possibility of a deal.
Assistant Minister for Emissions Reduction Tim Wilson told the ABC’s Q+A program regional communities with a reliance on traditional carbon-intensive industries will need to adjust as part of the net zero pitch.
“The plan is focused on what can we do to support those communities through that adjustment and how do we lead the investment and create the investment so that the skills, the value and of course the community that exists and the identity that exists in those communities is conserved,” he said.
Mr Wilson said he was not aware of what the Nationals were demanding of the government.
“Global warming and climate change is the biggest challenge facing the planet and the biggest economic opportunity facing the country, and the government of the day doesn’t have a policy,” Shadow Energy Minister Chris Bowen said on Q+A.
Mr Morrison has ruled out boosting Australia’s 2030 emissions target beyond the benchmark set by Tony Abbott in 2015, which is a reduction of between 26 and 28 per cent.
The opposition argued climate change would only be mitigated through more ambitious short-term targets.Internet Explorer Channel Network