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'Hostage negotiations' - Nats to present PM with climate target wish-list

Politics

Nationals MPs will deliver Scott Morrison a list of demands to secure the junior coalition partner’s support for a 2050 net zero emissions target.

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The prime minister insists the federal cabinet will decide what position Australia takes to COP26 climate talks in Glasgow starting on October 31.

But a four-member Nationals subcommittee was on Wednesday finalising the conditions to secure the party’s support.

Nationals leader and Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce says the subcommittee deliberations are being conducted at arm’s length and he expects the document to go to Morrison on Thursday.

Senior Nationals cabinet ministers Bridget McKenzie and David Littleproud are on the subcommittee alongside Resources Minister Keith Pitt and junior frontbencher Kevin Hogan.

Morrison has vowed to protect regional jobs and confirmed a deal will be reached in time for his departure for COP26 in a week.

“The impacts of what is happening globally with the world’s response to climate change, of course, they will have impacts here on regional and rural communities,” he told the Seven Network on Thursday.

“This is a big challenge. There’s a lot of things to work through.”

The prime minister also claimed Australia had outperformed the US, New Zealand and Canada in reducing emissions on 2005 levels.

“We hit our targets, we meet our targets, we beat our targets and that’s our record,” he said.

“I’m looking forward to sharing the news with the world and the commitments we intend to make going forward.”

Senior Labor frontbencher Penny Wong said described the talks between the Liberals and the Nationals as “hostage negotiations”.

She believes the “ransom” Morrison ends up paying the Nationals will be high and lead to more inaction on climate.

“It will just be spin. It will just be an announcement. It will be something Scott Morrison wants to take to Glasgow, but it won’t be real,” Senator Wong told the ABC.

The junior coalition partner says there is no eye-watering price tag on its list of demands, despite reports it’s seeking up to $20 billion in support for the regions.

Senator McKenzie warned there would be political consequences should Morrison forge ahead without the agreement of the Nationals.

“It will be ugly,” Senator McKenzie told parliament on Wednesday.

She wants a guarantee renewable energy projects will generate long-term jobs in regional Australia.

Both she and Joyce have said they don’t believe renewable energy will deliver the jobs boom that’s been talked about.

Joyce defended the timetable for a decision, despite criticism the coalition had eight years in power to figure out its climate policy.

“A decision that affects our nation for the next three decades at the very minimum deserves a week of sort of prudent deliberation and investigation,” he said.

“This is not a pantomime. We’re not grandstanding. We’re not trying to prevaricate. We are going to be diligent.”

MPs and senators are due to meet again on Sunday ahead of a final decision on Australia’s proposed net zero target.

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