The obvious question was put at the end of Question Time yesterday – but Labor certainly chose someone odd to pose it.

“Where will the Prime Minister’s 25 nuclear reactors be sited and where will the nuclear waste dumps go?” Kelly Hoare, member for the coal seat of Charlton, asked.

The Prime Minister trotted out his nuclear lines: “I do not have any nuclear power stations,” he said. “But let me say this: I do have an open mind about the energy needs of Australia in the future. I believe in a confident Australian future. I believe that this nation needs an energy policy that includes every option that will preserve our wealth, continue our economic growth and protect our environment. I believe that the only way we can do that is to look at all of the options.”

And he also made it very, very clear how he intends to mine coal for every vote:

I am interested to know, of course, where the questioner comes from. She comes from one of the great coal-mining areas of Australia. I wonder whether she tells her constituents – those Labor members of the Newcastle council who voted to put a cap on the coal-mining industry of the Hunter – about the consequences for Australian industry of the policy being advocated by the member for Grayndler.

She probably takes the member for Batman to the Hunter but she never takes the member for Grayndler to the Hunter. The great problem for her is that the man who is making the environmental policy for the Labor Party, the anti coal environment policy of the Labor Party – Labor is anti the coal industry. Labor wants to cripple the Australian coal industry. If you double the MRET targets or, worse than that, quadruple them, you are going to put a drain on Australian industry. You are going to make Australian industry less competitive, and that is going to hurt, not assist, the coal industry.

Why on earth did Labor let the PM have that go? Which genius decided Hoare should have the question?

Still, tactics aren’t perfect on the Government side. Lindsay Tanner’s speech to the Sydney Institute last week — most Australians are anti-intellectual, said Tanner — would provide great ammo for the nuclear debate..

That could very easily be spun into “So why is Labor rejecting all the scientific evidence on nuclear power? Or is this another matter you’re divided over?”

Peter Fray

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