Anthony Albanese has hit back from isolation as NSW and the federal opposition went on the attack over a delayed plan to curb household power prices.
A national cabinet meeting on cutting energy costs was meant to be held on Wednesday but has been rescheduled after the PM contracted COVID for a second time.
The energy meeting between federal, state and territory leaders will now go ahead on Friday.
Acting opposition leader Sussan Ley criticised the delay and urged Mr Albanese to reconsider and attend via video link.
Ms Ley said hundreds of thousands of Australians with COVID-19 had continued to work from home.
“The national cabinet has met almost exclusively via telepresence since its inception in early 2020,” she said.
“Hopefully the Prime Minister reconsiders his decision to cancel the meeting.”
NSW treasurer attacks PM
Meanwhile NSW Treasurer Matt Kean accused the PM of not providing any details for the states’ consideration about easing power prices.
“We need to see the detail of the Commonwealth’s plan to solve this national problem [and] to see the modelling about how we’ll keep prices down,” Mr Kean told ABC Radio on Tuesday.
Mr Albanese rubbished the claim and said leaders had been given “a whole lot of detail” about what the Commonwealth would propose, as well as legal advice.
“You’ve got to draw a distinction between what some states say in public in order to promote their own position and what is actually happening,” he said.
“What’s been happening is very constructive dialogue … bureaucrats have been working this through for weeks.”
Mr Kean called on the Commonwealth to come up with a national solution to what was a national problem, due to the interconnected nature of the east coast electricity grid.
“We can’t play Whac-A-Mole in energy policy, solving a problem in one state only for it to pop up in another,” he said.
Despite national cabinet being delayed, a planned energy ministers meeting will still go ahead as scheduled on Thursday.
Energy Minister Chris Bowen said he would discuss rising energy prices and provide an update on the nation’s capacity for renewable energy to his state and territory colleagues.
A proposal to put a price cap on coal would be supported by the NSW government but Mr Kean said his federal counterparts must provide compensation to taxpayers in his state to ensure they were not affected by lost royalties.
“The Commonwealth is yet to put a single dollar on the table to help with energy costs,” Mr Kean said.
“We stand ready to work with the Commonwealth to protect energy consumers in NSW … we want to see whatever it takes to protect families and businesses.”
Mr Albanese said the issues were being worked through “constructively” and he was confident of finding a solution.
“I’m very confident that we’ll be able to work these issues through with a bit of goodwill and that’s what we’re doing,” he said.
Mr Bowen shared Mr Albanese’s confidence that state and territory leaders would be able to come to an agreement on Friday.
“It’s in nobody’s best interest to see Australian industries under pressure from rising energy prices,” he said.
“That needs to be dealt with in the short term. In no way does that … deviate the government from its medium and long-term agenda of a renewable energy revolution.”
Nuclear reactors a solution: Nationals
Nationals leader David Littleproud said all ideas should be considered and small modular nuclear reactors could be a solution.
Mr Littleproud called on Mr Albanese to reconsider holding a national energy summit where stakeholders could have a “mature conversation” about power alternatives.
“I believe we need to look at SMRs and its benefits. It’s worth having the discussion,” he said.
Mr Albanese has repeatedly said nuclear energy was not being considered by the federal government and labelled suggestions a “distraction” from the current crisis.
It’s Mr Albanese’s second bout of COVID after he first tested positive during the May federal election campaign. He still managed to campaign and do interviews from home, but his frontbench team took charge of the bustling media schedule.
Mr Albanese is up to date with his booster shots.
Mr Albanese’s planned trip to Papua New Guinea next week is also uncertain.
– with AAP