Australia’s biggest manufacturers have given pro-coal MPs an “unequivocal” message to fall in line behind the coalition’s national energy guarantee.
But the pleas from steelmaker BlueScope, resources giant BHP and the minerals, farming and business lobbies have fallen on some deaf ears in the government.
Former prime minister Tony Abbott has already threatened to vote against his own party, and even the intervention of senior executives at a meeting in Canberra on Tuesday didn’t change his mind.
“The short answer is yes,” Mr Abbott said, when asked if he could still cross the floor to vote against the national energy guarantee.
“I think that I have an obligation to keep faith with the position that the government took to the people in 2013.”
He was one of four coalition MPs who spoke against the guarantee in the coalition party room on Tuesday, after hearing from manufacturing executives.
But at least 12 other MPs supported the government’s plan.
“The more people stuff around with this issue, the greater the risk that I won’t be here,” NSW MP Ann Sudmalis told the party room.
Energy Minister Josh Frydenberg said businesses were demanding the national energy guarantee.
“They came to parliament with a very clear and unequivocal message,” he told parliament.
“The national energy guarantee is in the national interest.”
The pro-coal MPs want the government to subsidise new coal generation, and Mr Frydenberg said coal is “absolutely critical” to Australia’s energy mix.
“The best chance for existing coal-fired power stations and indeed for new ones to be built is to get the investment framework right, which the national energy guarantee provides,” Mr Frydenberg told ABC radio.
Backbench energy committee members and other dubious government MPs want assurances about supply reliability under the national energy guarantee, and whether it will drive down power prices.
Liberal MP Tony Pasin said he wants a price guarantee of $60 a megawatt hour, to go along with reliability and emissions targets.
“I think the focus needs to be price, not how we get there,” he told Sky News.
Mr Abbott also wants any legislation to come back to the party room before it is put to parliament.
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said it will be dealt with in the usual way.