Scott Morrison Angus Taylor
(Image: AAP/Dan Himbrechts)

Prime Minster Scott Morrison and Energy Minister Angus Taylor have today issued an ultimatum to the electricity sector: “the government will step up and back a new gas power plant in the Hunter Valley if the sector doesn’t replace [the Liddell power station’s] capacity.”

This continued push for a “gas-fired” recovery comes at the behest of the National COVID-19 Coordination Commission which, coincidentally, is dominated by figures from the gas industry.

So once again, the party of the free market decides the market could use a little prod in the direction they’d prefer.

Here is a list of some other recent examples of just that:

  • Soon after Morrison became PM, the government decided it wanted the power to, among other things, force energy companies to divest from their assets, eliciting a rare unity ticket between Labor and the Business Council of Australia, who decried it as, well, socialism.
  • Who could forget Direct Action, where the government literally replaced a market mechanism for pricing carbon with a program based on bureaucrats picking winners, so that companies and farmers could (usually) do what they would already have done anyway to reduce emissions.
  • The banking super-profits tax is a question of perspective. When something similar was applied by Labor to the mining industry, it was an economy wrecking disaster that would close mines across the country and send investment fleeing to Zambia. But when the Liberals were trying to divert a growing push for a banking royal commission, a super-profits tax on the banks was fair game.
  • Once the royal commission finally did happen, the government — presumably needing to prove they hated banks as much as the average citizen — introduced its Banking Executive Accountability Regime legislation. It gave the regulator such extraordinary powers of intervention — including the approval over hiring practices and the power to withhold bonuses — that even Liberal backbenchers attacked it.
  • Before the 2016 election a policy of domestic gas reservation was, according to Josh Frydenberg, an “investment killer” that would “destroy investment, jobs, and ultimately lead to less gas supply”. By 2019 — via Malcolm Turnbull’s gas export restrictions — he had changed his tune.
  • And while it didn’t become official policy, a favourite of ours comes from that paragon of consistency, Tony Abbott. During his backbench gargoyle phase, Abbott suggested that the federal government send the army into states that refuse to expand their natural gas production.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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