NSW Young Nationals’ EIS push guillotined

NSW Young Nationals' EIS debate guillotined at Broken Hill


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NSW Young Nationals member Alex Fitzpatrick speaking for the introduction of an EIS. The motion was resoundingly voted down at Broken Hill.

NSW Young Nationals member Alex Fitzpatrick speaking for the introduction of an EIS. The motion was resoundingly voted down at Broken Hill.

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Highly-anticipated debate on an Emission Intensity Scheme snuffed out at Broken Hill

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A NSW Young Nationals push for an Emission Intensity Scheme has been snuffed out. 

Senior party figures - including Federal Nationals president Larry Anthony and NSW Upper House MP Rick Colless – spoke against the motion, put forward by Young Nat Alex Fitzpatrick.

A significant majority voted it down, many delegates even refusing an extension of time for one speaker to discuss the merits of an EIS.

That was Women’s Council representative Claire Coulton – daughter of Federal Parkes MP Mark Coulton – who said “these conversations don’t have to be seen as crazy left-wing ideas.”

The debate attracted much pre-conference media attention. The motion came a day after Deputy Premier John Barilaro floated support for nuclear energy and gas “in the right places” in NSW. 

“These conversations don’t have to be seen as crazy left-wing ideas.” - Claire Coulton, NSW Nationals Women's Council

The EIS debate was billed as the rural youth speaking up and splitting from the traditional views of the party and, indeed, support appeared to be limited to a corner of younger members at the Broken Hill Civic Centre.

Ms Fitzpatrick, 21, from the Wollondilly branch, first thanked Mr Barilaro “for opening up the issue of energy” at the conference.

She lamented the lack of a long-term policy setting on power in Australia – and despite being allowed an extension of time to make her case by chairman Bede Burke, there was an outcry from a number of delegates.

Basically, an EIS would put limits on a power station’s carbon emissions. Cleaner generators emitting less than the limit earn credits that can be sold to high-emitting generators above the baseline.

The four conference microphones at Broken Hill were loaded up with more speakers than any other debate at the conference. 

MLC Rick Colless said he wasn’t exactly sure what an EIS was, “but from what I have found out it sounds a lot like an Emissions Trading Scheme that was brought in by Gillard”. 

“The best way to reduce carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is to store it in the soil. That will sequester all of Australia’s carbon emissions, not for the next one year, two years, ten years - but for the next 125 years.

“That will lead to significant on-farm benefits, such as improved soil structure, better water infiltration and storage... increased yields, better use of rainfall.”

“If we get the science right on this, and not the ideology, the politics will look after itself.”

Ms Coulton congratulated her fellow Young Nationals for putting the motion forrward, and said an “EIS didn’t have to be a crazy left-wing idea”

She was denied an extension of time on her debate.

Larry Anthony, who has copped criticism for his lobbying work for the Shenhua coal mine, said energy supply problems in South Australia and Victoria demonstrated an EIS was bad policy. 

“I have to admire the courage and tenacity of the Young Nats, but at the moment, this is bad policy and bad politics,” he said. 

“It brought down Malcolm Turnbull eight years ago, it brought down the Labor government, and it will bring down this government again.” 

“Regrettably Young Nats, this needs to be put to bed, dead and buried.” 

In her right of reply, Ms Fitzpatrick said she agreed storage was a critical issue to address, and that clean coal could very well form a part of Australia’s long-term energy needs.

“But until we have a long-term policy position… pushing for investment in technology, then we’re not going to achieve that,” she said. 

“You say it’s bad politics, well I’m more worried about my electricity bill, I’m more worried about my parent’s small business, and what are we going to do when we ship our businesses overseas because they can’t afford their electricity bills anymore?” 

“This is not a motion that is anti-coal. This is a motion that is encouraging investment into our future, into the electricity sector of Australia and making sure we are putting our best foot forward and leaving a legacy that means we are going mean we can afford to live in this beautiful country. 

“If we can’t support that, then I think that’s a real flaw in why we’re here.”

The motion was heavily defeated. 

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