Passionate Coalition duo George Christensen and Craig Kelly are the driving force behind a rebellious pro-coal forum reputed to have more than 20 back-bench signatures. Their oft-repeated mantra is that coal will deliver “low-cost electricity for consumers and industry”, and create jobs.
They are perfectly correct, if the government foots the bill, or subsidizes the development of the expensive, environmentally risky Adani coal mine and the construction of sufficient coal fired power stations. But what would it cost tax-payers?
Despite Craig Kelly’s protestations that “Malcolm Turnbull has my full support”, it cannot be sheer co-incidence that they have timed their lobbying until the very week that the Coalition’s negative Newspoll results again equal 30, the number Malcolm Turnbull used to question Tony Abbott’s leadership competency in 2015.
There has also been a swelling chorus of conservative voices calling for Malcolm Turnbull to step-down, or be dumped as leader. His departure was predicted over the Easter week-end, even although there were no leadership contenders.
It is not surprising that both investors and lenders are wary of risking their capital on coal at present. There is a global trend away from using coal for energy generation. The UK government for example aims to phase out coal-fired power stations as early as 2025, in favour of gas-fired electricity generation, and renewable energy sources that are now cheaper to build than the alternative coal using facilities.
I admire the courage of the Monash Forum group in putting their political fortunes on the line over a single issue, which has already been extensively researched. Of course they do not believe in climate change and are presumably prepared to wear the opprobrium they will receive if they are proved wrong.
They are also out-of-step with their colleagues, who will not thank them if and when the Coalition looses seats at the next election, because of leadership instability.
The disaffected could defect to Corey Bernardi’s Conservative Party with similar policies, but it is fast becoming irrelevant, and they are unlikely to do so.
Let’s hope that they stay, and contribute more constructively to future debates. It would certainly help if it were Tony Abbott, not Malcolm Turnbull, who left politics!