Climate row fuels split as Barnaby Joyce flexes muscle with Llew O’Brien made deputy speaker

With Liberals and Nationals trading barbs, former prime minister Malcolm Turnbull dismissed a call from Nationals MP George Christensen for taxpayer support for the proposed Collinsville coal-fired power station in Queensland.

“Those people who are advocating that the government should fund coal-fired power are basically making the case for higher emissions and higher energy prices. And that is nuts,” Mr Turnbull said.

One of the MPs who voted against the government, Queensland Nationals MP Ken O’Dowd, called the outcome a “step forward” and said he wanted Mr Joyce to return to the leadership one day.

Mr O’Brien won the ballot by 75 to 67 votes against the government’s candidate, fellow Nationals MP Damien Drum, in a show of force for a core group of disaffected Nationals MPs who backed Mr Joyce in his attempt to win the party leadership last week.

While the election was decided by secret ballot, the rebels secured at least five Coalition votes in a rebuff to the government made possible by a Labor ploy to nominate Mr O’Brien, one of Mr Joyce’s closest allies.

Llew O’Brien is congratulated by Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack after being elected deputy speaker in the House of Representatives.Credit:Dominic Lorrimer

The result suggested that Mr O’Brien gained support from at least five Coalition MPs as well as six crossbenchers and 64 Labor MPs.

The ballot came hours after Mr O’Brien showed his unhappiness with Mr McCormack’s victory by declaring he would not sit with the Nationals party room although he would continue to vote with the government.

The move foiled the government plan to elevate Mr Drum, the Nationals MP for the seat of Nicholls in Victoria and one of Mr McCormack’s allies in last week’s leadership spill.

In a separate ploy, Mr Joyce was preparing to nominate Mr O’Dowd to the deputy speaker position in a rebuff to Mr McCormack and Mr Morrison, but the plan was overtaken by Labor’s nomination.

Llew O'Brien talks with Barnaby Joyce during Question Time, before Mr O'Brien was elected deputy speaker of the  House of Representatives.

Llew O’Brien talks with Barnaby Joyce during Question Time, before Mr O’Brien was elected deputy speaker of the House of Representatives.Credit:Alex Ellinghausen

Mr Morrison greeted the vote by declaring it a victory for a government supporter.

“There is no shortage of government members in this House to ensure that we continue to deliver on the promises we made to the Australian people,” the Prime Minister told the chamber.

But Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese said the outcome revealed the Coalition was in chaos.

“No amount of marketing or spin can hide the humiliation for the government from that ballot,” Mr Albanese said.

The Age and The Herald revealed on Monday the Morrison government would take a new long-term emissions strategy to the UN Climate Change Summit in Glasgow in November, potentially joining about 80 nations to pledge net zero carbon by 2050.

Energy and Emissions Reduction Minister Angus Taylor said the government expected to take a new strategy to the summit, which would be informed by its technology roadmap.

Liberal MP Trent Zimmerman endorsed a net-zero carbon target, in line with British prime minister Boris Johnston’s plea to leading economies.

“We need to do the due diligence and we need to work out how we get there. I think it’s very easy to say yes,” Mr Zimmerman said.


But Liberal senator Eric Abetz warned against a commitment to a net-zero emissions by 2050 emissions target, saying it was based on the “emotion and not about the substance of the issue”.

Australian National University Emeritus Professor Will Steffen said whatever technology the new strategy deploys, the Morrison government must rule out all new fossil fuel development to meet the key goal of the Paris agreement and keep global warming to below two degrees Celsius.

“We can have no new fossil fuels, no extension of coal, no new gas… all must be banned if you are serious about Paris,” Prof Steffen said.

“Meeting 1.5 degrees (Celsius) is virtually impossible now, we’ve burnt too much carbon already. But what we can do is limit warming to around two degrees,” he said.

“To stay within two degrees we need to reach net zero emissions by 2040 – 2045 at the very latest – 2050 is too late, we’ve already put too much carbon into the atmosphere.

“We need to act as a global community and Australia, as the 16th biggest emitter must play its part, to reduce carbon emissions by 50 per cent by 2030 to stay within two degrees warming.”

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