Barnaby Joyce and the Nationals stay silent on net zero emissions deal

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The prospect of the Nationals signing up to net zero has been the subject of years of bitter internal division within the Coalition, amid concerns over how the transition would impact regional Australia.

Mr Joyce – who has himself long expressed scepticism about the policy – has refused to say whether he personally supports the plan.

Fronting reporters in Canberra on Monday, he repeated his assertion the Nationals had been left with no other choice but to sign off on the agreement.

“I 100 per cent support the decision of the party room,” he told reporters.

“The decision was going to be made, either with us or without us. I believed it was best for regional Australia, for those farmers, those regional towns and the miners, that we be part of a negotiation, rather than part of a demonstration.”

The revamped climate policy is expected to be revealed before Prime Minister Scott Morrison departs on Thursday for the COP26 climate summit in Glasgow. 

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But the Nationals’ list of demands to secure their support for the plan remains a closely-guarded secret.

Mr Joyce is for now refusing to reveal the conditions of the deal, but maintains the negotiation has secured stronger outcomes to protect jobs and industries in regional Australia.

Nationals deputy leader David Littleproud said he expects the details of the plan to be revealed as soon as tomorrow.

“It has to go through a cabinet process tonight but once that goes through it will become the government’s position,” he told reporters.

“We’ve been pragmatic about the technology roadmap that will reduce emissions and keep jobs and create new jobs.”

Nationals win extra cabinet position 

Mr Joyce had also earlier refused to confirm whether the Nationals would be offered another cabinet position as part of the agreement. 

But Prime Minister Scott Morrison on Monday later confirmed Resources and Water Minister Keith Pitt would be added to the cabinet.

Mr Pitt – who has been a strong critic of the push to embrace a 2050 target – had previously been demoted to the outer ministry by Mr Joyce. 

The decision means the number of Nationals members in the cabinet goes four to five.

Climate divisions remain

A majority of Nationals signed off on the net zero proposal – but there remains division within the party on adopting the climate policy. 

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Nationals Senator Matt Canavan – who is fiercely against a net zero target – said he would keep up the “rage” in his opposition to the plan. 

“Pursuing this green fantasy is only going to end up in tears,” he told reporters.

“I’ll vote against all of this madness whenever it comes up in the Australian Parliament and I know there’s a lot of people with me around the country.”

But Nationals MP Darren Chester – who supported the decision – said he hoped the agreement could signal an end to the divisive climate wars of Australian politics.

“I hope they can [end],” he said.

“We now need to move forward and support the prime minister in his decision as he goes to Glasgow.” 

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Labor says target must be ‘legislated’

Labor leader Anthony Albanese said any net zero emissions plan had to be legislated to be taken seriously.

“We don’t know what the rules of the game are and we don’t know what the outcome is,” he told reporters.

“Unless he legislates that, then it can’t possibly be taken seriously.”

The Australian government currently supports cutting emissions by 26-28 per cent emissions by 2030 below 2005 levels as part of the Paris Agreement.

Greens leader Adam Bandt, who wants net zero emissions by 2035, said the government’s position still amounted to delay and denial.

“It is a fraudulent deal that will make the climate crisis worse,” he told reporters.

“The whole point of the Glasgow summit is to cut pollution by 2030.”

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