Newly reinstated Nationals leader and deputy PM Barnaby Joyce has called for high-efficiency, low-emission coal power stations and nuclear power to bankroll social services, according to a report in The Guardian.
Despite reluctance from city-based Liberals to support new coal-fired power, and against the advice of International Energy Agency, Joyce used an interview on Sky News to call for more modern coal plants and declare his support for Australia building nuclear power reactors.
“We absolutely need high-efficiency, low-emission coal-fired power stations,” Mr Joyce said.
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“No one likes big holes in the ground … but the point is, you like your health system, you like your education system. This money has to come from somewhere. From the red rocks—iron ore. From the black rocks—coal.”
Joyce told Jones he was a supporter of Australia adopting nuclear power if people wanted zero-emission power generation. But he said whether the nation went down that road was a matter for voters.
“I can’t change the nuclear position,” Mr Joyce said.
“I believe we should have nuclear power and, and I believe that anything to make our nation a stronger place, this is the path we should be going down, and if people want zero emissions – well, this, this is it.
“I mean, you have your wind, you can have your solar, but if you want baseline, deliverable, 24/7 zero-emission power, then nuclear does it.”
Joyce said small modular reactors could “power the city of Tamworth, the city of Armidale and a lot of other towns beside” with technology you could transport “on the back of a truck”.
The deputy PM also had sharp words for Australia’s banks for their management of carbon risk, declaring Australian banks were the recipients of government protection and that meant there should be reciprocity.
“We protect [the banks], right, we protect them from competition,” Joyce told Sky News host Alan Jones.
“I think that comes with a responsibility that if something is legal and financially stands up, then you should be investing in it.”
He suggested “a lot” of banking executives “believe that they own the banks, they made the banks”.
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“No. They just presented very well for an interview, which got them a job in the bank, and they don’t own it, it’s not their money and they should reflect on that and stop acting like it’s their actual money.”
Queensland National Keith Pitt last year demanded a parliamentary inquiry, chaired by longtime Joyce-backer George Christensen, after a climate change commitment from ANZ to step back from business customers with material thermal coal exposure.
David Littleproud called for a boycott of the bank, and then deputy PM Michael McCormack denounced the bank’s plan as a form of “virtue signalling”.
The Nationals have also been accused of resisting an attempted pivot by Scott Morrison on climate policy, with the PM saying he supports Australia aiming for net zero emissions by 2050.