Barnaby Joyce right to support coal in face of mocking
AS OUR spiralling power bills look set for yet another massive hike, it is great to see the Federal Government swimming against the renewables tide and showing its support for coal-fired power generation in the North.
Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce has been mocked mercilessly since appearing on the ABC's Insiders yesterday and refusing to rule out federal money being used to support additional coal-fired power generation.
As always, Mr Joyce's delivery was dramatic, arguing that anyone who objects to coal should have their TV switch off and their lights go dark, and the statement had entitled city-dwellers clutching their pearls nationwide.
"We've just got to get away from this quasi-religious perspective that if you say the word 'coal', that's something inherently evil," he said.
But while Mr Joyce's comments may have caused some furious tut-tuts on social media, the fact is that when the Turnbull Government speaks about coal-fired power, they are speaking the language of industry and business across the nation and especially the North.
Australia's power crisis is sending businesses to the wall and obliterating household budgets at a time when ordinary Queenslanders can afford it least.
The argument over how we got here is a sensitive ideological argument about climate change, so we will leave that to the experts, but the unarguable fact is power costs are through the roof and something needs to be urgently done to bring the costs down and help regions such as North Queensland get moving.
A large overhead such as power - which has been increasing rapidly in recent years to the point where businesses have nightmares about opening the next bill - kills confidence.
Lack of confidence discourages business owners from embarking on expansion plans and that means laying off staff, not putting on apprentices and generally running the business in damage control until conditions improve.
As Mr Joyce said, the Government is refusing to be bullied into joining the chorus of voices calling for the end of the coal age.
The nation, and especially North Queensland, needs power bills to reduce and if adding coal-fired power generation is a good way to do it, it is prudent to consider it.
The advance of renewables is welcome and its promise is very encouraging as North Queensland turns into a leader in that sector.
But a "renewables at all costs" plan could well hobble the North's economic recovery.
Proposals to reduce bills that involve coal-based power should not be discarded in a rush to lead the renewables revolution.