Continued debate between Labor and the Coalition over what exactly to do about Australia’s developing energy crisis, has led to an awkward war of words between Josh Frydenberg and Joel Fitzgibbon before TV cameras in the hallways of Parliament House this week.
Frydenberg, the federal energy minister, and Fitzgibbon, the member for the Hunter Region and a Labor frontbencher, were captured arguing with one another by multiple TV cameras on Tuesday morning.
“Josh, I think you’re embarrassed,” Fitzgibbon can be heard saying. “I think you’re embarrassed because every day you’ve got to roll out and support the prime minister’s desperate attempts to mislead the Australian community.”
A clearly vexed Frydenberg shrugged off Fitzgibbon’s assertions, labelling the member for the Hunter “no-coal Joel,” and criticising Labor for being open to the idea of leaving households without power, and miners without jobs.
“You’re defending the big energy companies who are making big profits,” Frydenberg said, to which Fitzgibbon rebutted, “…off the back of the high prices you created”.
The awkward exchange came in the midst of an ongoing debate over the planned closure of the Liddell coal-fired power plant, which provides roughly 10% of New South Wales’ energy.
AGL, the plant’s owner, has no plans to keep Liddell open past 2022, but Frydenberg and Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull have urged AGL boss Andy Vesey to either keep the plant open beyond that date, or sell it to someone who will.
Meanwhile, the Government has asked the Australian Energy Regulator to examine the bidding practices of NSW generators, “to ensure consumers aren’t getting ripped off”.
“The request comes off the back of reports that NSW power generators have been bidding and selling their electricity in a manner that is adding around $30 to $35 per megawatt hour to spot prices,” Frydenberg said on September 11.
“The request to look into the practices of generators in NSW is an extension of the work already underway with the AER examining generator bidding behaviour across the National Electricity Market (NEM) following the closure of the Hazelwood power station in March this year.
“The Turnbull Government is doing all that it can to deliver an affordable and reliable energy system,” Frydenberg concluded.