Scott Morrison On That Time He Carted Coal Into Parliament

The PM is all about ‘fair dinkum’ power that will drive prices down.

Of all the moments Scott Morrison is known for, few surpass the time he once carted a lump of coal into Parliament.

It was February last year, and the then treasurer was attacking Labor’s calls to phase out coal power in the House of Representatives. 

“This is coal -- don’t be afraid, don’t be scared,” Morrison cried, as others laughed, before the lump was passed from hand to hand. The Speaker of the House was less amused, calling him out for breaking the parliamentary rule against using props.

Now as Prime Minister, and with a possible byelection looming for Malcolm Turnbull's seat of Wentworth, Morrison and his new Energy Minister Angus Taylor are under pressure to fix the energy sector --  a debate that has proven to quite literally tear his government apart. And he’s standing firm that coal is key.

READ MORE: Explained: Australia's Energy Problem Is About Power, Paris And Prices 

Image: That time Scott Morrison carted a lump of coal into Parliament. Image: AAP

“What I was sick and tired of people telling me was that if you have coal-fired power generation in your energy mix, you are committing some sort of crime,” he told 2GB’s Alan Jones, in his first interview with the broadcaster since becoming PM.

“That’s nonsense. It remains a key source for keeping prices down and keeping the lights on and I intend for it to stay there.”

Morrison said he is focused on building more sources of “dispatchable” or “fair dinkum” power (as he was moved to correct himself) -- that is, power generated from coal, gas, batteries and pumped hydro -- that can be controlled by balance and supply.

Jones raised the possibility of building of new coal power plants -- and Morrison said he would be on board. 

“I’d love to see one built,” the Prime Minister said.

“I’d love to see lots of new power generation being built. I want the market to invest in those things … that’s why we are stripping out all of the other subsidies.”

Then we have the Paris agreement -- an international climate change pact that calls on lowering greenhouse emissions.

The Coalition removed the emissions reduction component from its national energy guarantee before Scott Morrison replaced Malcolm Turnbull. Now, the Prime Minister says Australia's commitments haven't changed, and that  targets and electricity prices are "two separate issues". 

“I’m not convinced changing it makes any difference one way or the other -- that’s the bottom line,” he said when repeatedly questioned over whether he would abandon the deal.

Morrison claims coal is the key to cheap electricity. Image: AAP

Australia met its first round of Paris targets at a canter and the next was out to 2030, he said.

“Now that discussion isn’t going to change anybody’s electricity prices and that’s what I’m focused on.

“I’m not a climate warrior, one way or another. What I’m about is getting people’s electricity prices down.”

Later speaking on 3AW radio, he said he was taking the "big stick" against power companies, and would look at starting a royal commission into the sector. It was an idea floated by his leadership rival Peter Dutton two weeks ago. 

“I’m open to it though, and I’ll look at it,” he said, telling Neil Mitchell he made a mistake opposing the banking royal commission.

“Where I failed was to properly understand the real pain people had been feeling about being treated so badly,” he said.

“What I didn’t do -- and this is what I regret -- is that Australians needed to work through the deep hurt they’ve had on this.”

Meanwhile, Labor is waiting for some certainty.

"What we have from this government is a lack of policy," Shadow Infrastructure Minister Anthony Albanese told Sky News.

"We think that a policy on energy is a good idea. ... what we need is some certainty.

"Yes, energy companies are part of the problem, but government inaction is a major reason why we have high energy prices today."

With AAP.