The Morrison government is trying to turn the tables on Labor, accusing it of not wanting to pass the “big stick” energy laws because it is too close to power companies.
The laws, which would allow the federal government to break up big energy companies, have been widely panned including by the consumer and competition watchdog.
They were expected to be voted on in parliament last week but the government shelved plans for debate.
Now Energy Minister Angus Taylor says the question of when the legislation will be back is one for Labor.
“If Bill Shorten says today I am prepared to work with you to hold these big energy companies to account, it will get passed through parliament straight away,” he told Sky News on Monday.
“There are many pieces of legislation where Labor has taken the wrong position over the last couple of years and we are seeing that here because they are weak on the big energy companies because they are too close to them.”
Opposition frontbencher Michelle Rowland says Mr Taylor talked a big game about the big stick.
“This policy is friendless because it will actually increase prices,” she told Sky News.
“We’re getting that from consumer groups, from industry groups, from generators.”
The coalition is under pressure from its junior partner to get moving, with deputy Nationals leader Bridget McKenzie last week saying she expected the laws would get through parliament before the election in mid-May.
On Monday, former Nationals leader Barnaby Joyce reiterated the policy should still be pursued.
“If we get the opportunity to pursue, the opportunity that can bring success, then we should, absolutely 100 per cent,” he told reporters in Canberra.
Meanwhile, another of the government’s few remaining energy policy planks is being undermined by legal advice suggesting the way the plan to underwrite new investments in energy generation is funded is unconstitutional.
The legal opinion, commissioned by the Australia Institute, says the government either needs new legislation to underpin spending money on the program or to funnel the cash via the Clean Energy Finance Corporation, which cannot finance gas or coal projects.
But Mr Taylor was confident no new legislation was needed.
Asked if he had taken advice from the solicitor-general, he said: “We know we’ve got the legislative authority to do this.”
The Clean Energy Council says policies that focus on reforming the energy market and addressing climate change will be important factors in the coming poll.
“We need to put away our big sticks and get serious about real reform of the energy market,” council chief executive Kane Thornton said on releasing policy directives for the election on Monday.
The 10 recommendations included a renewable energy target of at least 50 per cent by 2030 and a zero-emissions electricity sector target well before 2050, encouraging the uptake of energy storage such as batteries and pumped hydro; mandating solar power in all new homes, and extensions of the Australian Renewable Energy Agency and the CEFC.