NSW treasurer Matt Kean says federal Nationals ‘can resign from the ministry' if they don't back net zero

Asia's Tech News Daily

Photograph: Dan Himbrechts/AAP

The New South Wales treasurer, Matt Kean, says the Nationals will need to decide if they want to resign and “support a Labor government” if they don’t back a federal commitment of net zero carbon emissions by 2050.

The comments come ahead of a critical Nationals party room meeting in Canberra on Sunday afternoon, which will consider the party’s position after it sent a list of demands to the prime minister, Scott Morrison, on Thursday.

Morrison is hoping to clinch the support of the Nationals before he heads to Glasgow next week for the United Nations climate summit, but has made clear amid the high-stakes negotiations that the final decision will be up to cabinet.

Nationals’ cabinet ministers – including the deputy prime minister, Barnaby Joyce, and Senate leader, Bridget McKenzie – would need to resign if they refused to back the cabinet position, a move that would lead to turmoil within the government and potentially trigger an election.

Kean, who successfully secured the support of the NSW Nationals for a target of halving emissions by 2030, said he believed the coalition at a federal level should also pursue an “ambitious” interim goal that reflected the average of state emission reduction targets of about 35%.

Related: Fact check: Barnaby Joyce on Australia’s emissions reduction strategy

“I want to see the prime minister lead the world when it comes to taking action on climate change because it is in our economic interests to do so,” Kean told ABC’s Insiders program.

“We know that there is an economic arms race under way for the next generation of jobs, investments, export opportunities and economic prosperity, and I want to see Australia at the head of the pack to grab those opportunities and set us up for a more prosperous future.”

When asked if Morrison should forge ahead with cuts without the support of the junior Coalition partner, Kean said the prime minister should “continue to act in the nation’s interest.”

“And if the Nats won’t get on board, they have a very clear choice: they can resign from the ministry and support a Liberal Government, or they can resign from the ministry and support a Labor government,” he said.

“Now, I know what the best path forward for our country is and that’s a strong National-Liberal Coalition government putting the interests of our nation first. That’s what we’ve done in New South Wales and I know that that is what will happen in Canberra.”

The deputy Nationals leader, David Littleproud, said the party room had only looked at the revised technology roadmap “just over a week ago”, but would resolve its position on Sunday.

“Our party room has worked pragmatically, respectfully as we possible could and we will hopefully get to a resolution one way or another today,” he told Sky News.

In response to suggestions the party was demanding a change to legislation to explore the potential of nuclear power, Littleproud said the idea was not electorally popular.

“Nuclear is something the Nationals party obviously stands firmly behind as a party room but we understand you have got to educate before you legislate.”

“The electorate isn’t necessarily there with us at the moment. We have to be pragmatic about that. You have still got to win elections.”

Kean said MPs advocating nuclear were “pursuing a fantasy”.

“People talking about nuclear to solve our current needs are chasing a unicorn. It may have a role to play in the future as technology evolving, so I won’t rule it out, but right now I’m focusing on things that will work,” Kean said.

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