Treasurer Josh Frydenberg is disappointed his signature energy policy is dead, but believes Australians want his government to prioritise cutting power prices over reducing carbon emissions.
‘The people of Australia want to see their power bills come down, and they want to see the government take whatever measure possible to do that,’ he told the ABC on Sunday.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison has declared the coalition government’s National Energy Guarantee is dead, and ruled out enshrining Australia’s Paris Agreement climate change commitments in law.
He will disown most of the policy in a partyroom meeting when parliament resumes this week, but wants to keep its reliability guarantee, default prices and measures to add new generation.
Mr Frydenberg says nobody is more disappointed than him, as the former energy minister, the NEG has been laid to rest.
He said the government had a track record for bringing down emissions, but stressed reducing power costs was more important.
‘What you will hear from us, which you will not hear from the Labor Party, is that we will put reducing people’s power bills first, over emissions,’ he said.
The Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry said the government ought be applauded for its urgency in wanting to bring down prices and ensure reliability.
But businesses still want a long-term and bipartisan approach to encouraging investment, so the nation can meet its emissions reductions targets.
‘Now that the NEG has been declared dead, it’s important that the government sooner, rather than later, tells the community what will replace it,’ ACCC chief executive James Pearson told AAP.
Labor energy spokesman Mark Butler said the government has walked away from any attempt to agree to a bipartisan investment framework, as business had wanted.
‘Households will end up paying the price,’ Mr Butler told Sky News.
The opposition will propose its own energy policy before the nation goes to the polls.
Mr Butler said the policy would involve a sector-based approach to bringing down emissions, with each industry subject to a different set of rules, akin to what Labor brought forward at the 2016 election.