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MP Gee backs Morrison as Nats toss toys out of cot over climate action

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By Peter Holmes

The National Party's commitment to action on climate change is being questioned following a senior party member's statement that "the net zero thing is all sort of dead anyway".

Queensland senator Matt Canavan made the comment during an interview with the ABC.

“The other thing to say is the net zero thing is all sort of dead anyway,” Canavan said.

“Boris Johnson said he is pausing the net zero commitment, Germany is building coal and gas infrastructure, Italy’s reopening coal-fired power plants. It’s all over. It’s all over bar the shouting here."

Canavan appeared content to kick the can down the road for others to worry about.

“We’re talking about something that is 28 years away. What will happen in 28 years ... or the policies that will happen in 10 or 20 years, I think, should be up to the Australian people in 10 or 20 years, some of who might not even be voting [now].”

Canavan had been responding to questions about comments made by Queensland Liberal National candidate Colin Boyce, who had told the ABC net zero by 2050 was "a flexible plan that leaves us wiggle room as we proceed into the future".

Kate Hook with supporters at her campaign launch on February 9, 2022, at Robertson Park. Copyright: Orange News Examiner.

“We’ve seen the world change significantly in the last three months in terms of the use of fossil fuels, all in relation to the geopolitical situation in Europe," Boyce said.

The Nationals finally agreed in October last year to net zero carbon emissions by 2050, however there has been scepticism in some quarters about how genuine that commitment was.

Independent candidate for Calare Kate Hook told The Orange News Examiner the comments by Nationals "have been widely criticised by farmers".

"The National Party ... is just showing a lack of leadership and a lack of understanding of the scale and urgency of the challenge of climate change," she said.

"And they don't understand the opportunity for rural and regional Australia. The solutions to this crisis are the types of things that can future-proof farming, they can promote a diversified income for farmers."

Hook said that Calare was set to benefit more than most other electorates in Australia as the nation shifted from fossil fuels to renewables.

"We will not be able to grab that opportunity if we have National Party leadership."

Nationals MP for Calare Andrew Gee disagreed with fellow travellers Canavan and Boyce, telling The Orange News Examiner in a statement: "My position on supporting the net zero target by 2050 hasn’t changed.

Andrew Gee. Supplied.

"Looking after our planet and leaving our country in a better place than we found it is vitally important."

Gee said that while supporting net zero by 2050 he also "fought for the commitment to provide specific regional plans to protect regional economies, interests and jobs".

He said this had "been delivered" via the federal government's Energy Security and Regional Development Plan.

"The country should not have to do the heavy lifting for the cities," Gee said.

Although they share the same party, Canavan and Gee are playing to different audiences here, with each selling a message they believe will resonate with their local constituents.

And deputy prime minister Barnaby Joyce - who was backed in by Gee to replace the instantly forgettable Michael McCormack - was quoted by AAP today as saying: "We've said we've set a target, we're going to try and meet ... but I think where Colin [Boyce] is coming from, it's completely understandable."

The problem for a party walking both sides of the street is that Canavan and his pro-fossil fuel pals risk creating the impression in some voter's minds that the Nationals have no stomach for addressing climate change. That it's all window dressing that will be taken down after the election.

The Greens' Calare candidate Kay Nankervis said Canavan's comments highlighted that the 2050 target was too far into the distance.

The Green candidate Kay Nankervis at the ballot draw in Orange in April 2022. Supplied.

The Greens' policy argues for the net zero position to be achieved by 2035 "at the latest", Nankervis said.

"There are no surprises here that the Liberal National Coalition can't be strong on anything with regards to climate, so we're going to have lots of quarters wanting to water down what is already a weak target," she said in an interview with The Orange News Examiner.

"We can't really trust them because they just want to go with the weather vane and change from seat to seat, according to where they're going to get votes."


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