CANBERRA, AAP – Senior Nationals have denied seeking a multibillion-dollar regional support package in exchange for backing a 2050 net zero emissions target.
The junior coalition partner has committed to telling Scott Morrison its demands for supporting the package by the end of the week.
The prime minister wants to take a 2050 commitment to the United Nations climate change conference in Glasgow, which starts in less than two weeks.
While speculation is rampant the Nationals will eventually back the policy, leader Barnaby Joyce insists it is not a done deal.
“This is no pantomime. We wouldn’t go through this if we weren’t mindful of a whole range of outcomes,” he told Sky News on Wednesday.
“I don’t think even to my Liberal colleagues, who I respect greatly, I’ve given any inclination in any way, shape or form of any outcome.”
Deputy Nationals leader David Littleproud rejected reports the party was seeking a regional support package costing up to $20 billion.
Mr Littleproud, who said he aspirationally supports a 2050 target, insists the Nationals want to ensure there was not a major cost associated with climate action.
“We’re not thinking about 30 pieces of silver, we’re actually thinking more about policy settings that will ensure we protect regional Australia and help grow it,” he told the ABC.
“We don’t want to be sitting there asking for billions upon billions of dollars – that’s not responsible.”
A Nationals subcommittee comprised of cabinet minister Bridget McKenzie, non-cabinet Resources Minister Keith Pitt and backbench MP Kevin Hogan is looking at the detail.
Mr Joyce said he was at arm’s length from the body.
“The reason we do that is because we want a methodical, prudent approach in how we deliberate over a decision that will affect us now for three decades if we go forward with that,” he said.
Cabinet will meet on Wednesday with the coalition once again divided on climate change.
Labor leader Anthony Albanese described the situation as a Nationals pantomime that would end with Mr Morrison taking the commitment to Glasgow.
“But he’ll pretend that that’s sort of a big victory without a real path to get there,” he said.
“You have the absurdity of people who are National Party ministers and frontbenchers, including cabinet ministers, no less than the deputy prime minister, not supporting the government’s policy.”
The government has ruled out raising its 2030 emissions reductions targets from 26 to 28 per cent, while the opposition will release medium-term goals before the election.