Wealthy mining magnate and Federal MP Clive Palmer has once again refused to be drawn on the issue of his Palmer United Party’s (PUP) stance on the Renewable Energy Target (RET).
According to The Australian, Palmer told an audience in Launceston yesterday
“We’re looking at all those issues at the moment because we haven’t formed a view on what we’ll do with legislation coming before the Senate and when we look at what advantage we can do with our position,”
Palmer’s position here is important because it is likely to determine the viability of any attempt to scrap or seriously amend the RET scheme at the federal level. It is not yet certain, however, whether the PUP will ultimately maintain the balance of power in the Senate, given the potential reshuffling of the six seats available in WA’s Senate election re-run.
But if Palmer United’s current approach to another environmentally-oriented piece of legislation is any guide, i.e. their commitment to repealing the carbon price and refunding the tax already paid, then the RET appears doubly threatened.
On the other hand, at the state level, Clive Palmer has signalled to Tasmanian voters that he will not be afraid to use any federal advantage when it comes to the RET
“One of those things [affecting our policy on the RET] is how we go here in Tasmania and what we can do for this state. We’ve got the power and we’ve got no hesitation in using it for the benefit of people in Tasmania.”
Palmer’s Tasmanian contingent may have the chance to wield some power here given that a recent Morgan poll found the nation’s highest support for the party at 11.6 per cent. A result of this order would again make it difficult for the incoming government, which polls have suggested is likely to be Liberal (a state party defiant in their support of the RET).
If the PUP uses its position to challenge such legislation, however, then Tasmania will miss out on crucial investment in renewable technology and the benefits this provides.
The highly ambitious 200-turbine King Island wind farm (slated to be the largest in the Southern Hemisphere), for example, could potentially alleviate some of Tasmania’s considerable economic woes. But uncertainty surrounding the RET and any expected resistance from the PUP is likely to damage its prospects in the current feasibility study being conducted by Hydro Tasmania.
Given the considerable influence Palmer’s party can wield over the debate, and also the deterrent effect on renewable investment this ambiguity and uncertainty is generating, Clive Palmer and his Palmer United Party have a responsibility to make their position known, lest they risk destabilising the very economic legitimacy they seek to protect.