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Govt accuses Labor of "mixed messages" on energy policy

10 November, 2014

The Federal Government has wasted no time slamming the Opposition for perceived contradictions on energy policy, with Minister for Industry Ian Macfarlane labelling recent comments from Labor as "mixed messages about the future of coal and the jobs it supports".

Leader of the Opposition Bill Shorten was accused of contradicting his own Labor colleague and Environment spokesperson Mark Butler on energy policy at a press conference in Rockhampton on Friday 7 November.

In response to the question, "Should coal be phased out in the long-term though?" Shorten said: "No, coal's still got an ongoing role in Australia."

Shorten added: "Are you asking me something should always be the case forever? I'm not in the position to use a crystal ball … coal is part of our energy mix, as is renewable energy."

Earlier last week Butler was asked in a radio interview by ABC Adelaide Breakfast about setting up a market with a goal of phasing out coal exports. "Yes. I think everyone agrees that over a period of time – it will be a fairly extended period of time – we'll move to more renewable energy sources," Butler said.

Macfarlane asserted that around 50,000 coal workers across regional Australia can take "little comfort" from Labor's mixed views on a sector that is vital to the local economy and global energy supplies.

"This Government knows that Australia's coal industry is world-class. It powers our economy, employs around 150,000 Australians directly and indirectly and ensures we have a competitive edge through access to affordable electricity," Macfarlane said.

"To provide Australian coal workers with certainty for their jobs and futures, Bill Shorten and Mark Butler must end the mixed messages and be upfront about what future they see for coal workers in Australia and any plans to scale back coal exports.

"Australia's energy workers deserve certainty and the Coalition Government believes that our energy mix both now and into the future should be made up of both traditional and renewable energy sources," he said.