More power to the Nationals under secret net zero climate deal, Keith Pitt returns to cabinet

The Nationals have emerged with more power in the federal Coalition in a trade off with Prime Minister Scott Morrison for a lukewarm backing of the 2050 net zero climate target.

Under the otherwise still secret deal which was not put to a Nationals party room vote, the in-principle support from the junior coalition party means Nationals cabinet numbers will go from four to five with Resources Minister, and strong coal advocate, Keith Pitt returning to cabinet after being demoted by leader Barnaby Joyce earlier this year.

Like Nationals senator Matt Canavan and Member for Dawson George Christensen, Mr Pitt has been critical of any government push to embrace the 2050 target.

"I can say, unequivocally, every day I get up, I'm in a role for the government, I'm looking to deliver for the regional Australia, looking to deliver for the individuals we represent," Mr Pitt told Parliament on Monday.

Federal cabinet will meet late on Monday to formally sign off on the plan. It will then be taken to the government's joint party room before the Prime Minister takes it to next month's Glasgow climate summit.

The ALP is now pushing to get a net zero commitment enshrined in legislation to give it more weight, something Mr Morrison is determined not to do.

Resources Minister Keith Pitt. Picture: Sitthixay Ditthavong

Resources Minister Keith Pitt. Picture: Sitthixay Ditthavong

"The Coalition does not support Labor's policy," the Prime Minister said.

"The Labor party have a target with no plan, Mr Speaker. They have a target with no plan."

"That is not the Coalition policy. The policy of the Coalition is to have a plan with a target. So people actually know what we plan to do to achieve the target that they want to achieve. Mr Speaker, we have been working through carefully, considering all of the implications."

Details of the deal will be announced after cabinet approves the plan, but Deputy Nationals leader David Littleproud admits what will emerge will be the Government position, not the National's wish-list. And there is still confusion over whether it will be a soft, in-principle agreement or a hard binding target.

"I think after tonight this will be a target that we are signing up to try and achieve by 2030. It is a goal that we're on our way to do," Mr Littleproud told the ABC, before being corrected that the government is formulating a longer term 2050 target.

"Shoot me. It has been a long day," he added.

Keith Pitt and Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce. Picture: Keegan Carroll.

Keith Pitt and Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce. Picture: Keegan Carroll.

In Senate estimates hearings on Monday, Coalition senator Zed Seselja refused to disclose information underpinning the government's carbon emissions targets, saying they were bound by cabinet confidentiality rules.

"So no one in here actually can inform the public or the Senate about the secret discussions that are taking place about Australia's long-term economic future?" Labor senator Jenny McAllister pressed.

In Senate estimates hearings on Monday, Coalition senator Zed Seselja refused to disclose information underpinning the government's carbon emissions targets, saying they were bound by cabinet confidentiality rules.

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"So no one in here actually can inform the public or the Senate about the secret discussions that are taking place about Australia's long-term economic future?" Labor senator Jenny McAllister pressed.

After much delay, Mr Morrison is expected to head to the United Kingdom at the end of this week.

Labor senator Penny Wong led off questions about the Prime Minister's trip in Senate estimates on Monday and was left flabbergasted after the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet revealed 10 of the Prime Minister's personal staff would be heading to the Glasgow climate summit.

The personal staff are in addition to the 17 official PM&C staff and 15 DFAT staff heading to COP26.

"That's extraordinary," Senator Wong said. "That wasn't even pretend outrage. Ten personal staff. Wow."

The department also said only Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Energy and Emissions Reduction Minister Angus Taylor would be the official ministerial delegates heading to the talk.

Industry department officials also revealed the federal government was spending $12.9 million on advertising and market research to publicise its climate change policies.

Senator Seselja said the money would meet a desire from the public to know what was happening on climate policy and to promote an understanding of the emissions reductions already achieved, including through take-up of solar panels.

This story Coalition net zero deal secret as Nats gain cabinet position first appeared on The Canberra Times.