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Done deal: PM close to clinching net-zero climate agreement with Nats

Scott Morrison is on the cusp of securing the Nationals’ agreement for a target of net zero emissions by 2050, with conditions including ongoing support for agriculture and mining.

Oct 22, 2021, updated Oct 22, 2021
Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce during Question Time in the House of Representatives at Parliament House in Canberra, Tuesday, October 19, 2021. (AAP Image/Mick Tsikas) NO ARCHIVING

Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce during Question Time in the House of Representatives at Parliament House in Canberra, Tuesday, October 19, 2021. (AAP Image/Mick Tsikas) NO ARCHIVING

Nationals leader Barnaby Joyce delivered the junior coalition partner’s concerns to the prime minister on Thursday evening outlining a broad set of principles rather than specific projects or spending commitments.

At the heart of the Nationals’ concerns is what deeper emissions cuts will do to rural and regional jobs and industry, especially mining and farming.

The party will meet again on Sunday afternoon for an update on negotiations, with the coalition confident an agreement can be locked in early next week before Mr Morrison jets off for a G20 meeting in Rome.

He will then go to the COP26 climate summit starting in Glasgow on October 31.

Energy Minister Angus Taylor said it was right for the Nationals to be concerned about the future of industries like mining, heavy manufacturing and agriculture.

“Of course, the plan is all about making sure we strengthen those industries, not weaken them,” he told Sky News on Friday.

“The focus is on making sure that there’s upside for the regions, not downside.”

Agriculture Minister David Littleproud believes coal mining in Australia will continue well beyond 2040, regardless of a net zero target.

“Coal miners shouldn’t be shuddering in their boots. You’ll still have a job well beyond 2030, well beyond 2040,” he told ABC radio.

“We’ll still be digging coal up and we’ll be exporting.”

He does not expect all Nationals MPs to back net zero, but the coalition is increasingly confident of securing majority support.

“We only saw this plan last Sunday, which is very complex, and to be able to turn it around in the pragmatic way that we have, I think, shows an intent to try and work with our coalition partner,” Littleproud said.

“Now the ball’s in the prime minister’s court to be able to work through that and come back to us so that our party room can meet on Sunday and obviously get to (a) determination.”

Defence Minister Peter Dutton said there was a shift underway among Australia’s trading partners.

“We need to be realistic about (the fact that) – from the Queen, Rupert Murdoch down – people have signed up to the zero 2050 target,” he told Sky News.

“That’s the reality for many of our trading partners.”

He said the coalition would lose the next election if the fight over climate policy continued.

Deputy Labor leader Richard Marles said the government was risking jobs in regional Australia if it did not take more action on climate change.

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