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‘Climate denialist’: Former PM Paul Keating goes nuclear on Peter Dutton

Opposition energy spokesman Ted O'Brien

Source: ABC TV

Former prime minister Paul Keating has lashed the Coalition’s nuclear ambitions, labelling them climate change denialism in disguise.

Keating is scathing about the proposal and lashed out at Opposition Leader Dutton, calling him a “peddler of danger” in a lengthy statement on Sunday.

It follows a weekend of escalating language after Dutton announced last week that the Coalition would build seven nuclear plants in five states on the sites of coal-fired power stations if it wins the next election.

Costs and details of the plan remain scant, prompting concerns about safety, economic viability and its rushed timeline.

“Dutton’s policy, of its essence, is that human-induced climate change is a fraudulent concept propagated by environmentalists and left-leaning fellow travellers – a concept he believes should be deplored and opposed,” Keating wrote.

“A denialist now seeking to camouflage his long-held denialism in an industrial fantasy – resort to the most dangerous and expensive energy source on the face of the Earth – nuclear power.

“By his blatant opposition to renewables, Dutton calls into question and deprecates all the government has done to provide Australian business with a reliable and dependable framework for investment in renewables.”

Keating’s statement followed Dutton’s name-calling of Prime Minister Anthony Albanese as a “fraud” and a “child in a man’s body” – and delivering a warning to states opposed to nuclear.

Dutton took his decidedly more personal swipe at Albanese in an address to a meeting of the Liberal Party’s federal council on Saturday.

“He’s a man with a mind still captured in his university years; he’s a child in a man’s body,” he told the loyalist audience.

“We need a mature conversation in this country,” he added, referring to cartoon memes posted on social media by senior Labor MPs since he outlined the Coalition’s nuclear plan.

Describing Albanese as “a political appeaser, not a leader of conviction”, Dutton said the PM “places a higher value on political survival than statesmanship”.

He also responded to promises of refusal from NSW and Victorian premiers Chris Minns and Jacinta Allan to build nuclear power plants in their states.

“I don’t answer to them,” he said.

“Commonwealth laws override state laws … so support or opposition at a state level won’t stop us rolling out our new energy system.”

Meanwhile, Nationals leader David Littleproud tore into Labor and the Teal independent MPs on Sunday, accusing them of destroying the livelihoods and lifestyles of regional Australians.

“What we’re experiencing, and the real-life experience that I’m experiencing here, is you’re saying your fellow Australians livelihoods being torn up because of this ideological view of an all renewables,” Littleproud told Sky News Australia’s Sunday Agenda.

“All we’ve got is transmission lines, solar panels and wind turbines taking up our productive landscape, tearing up remnant vegetation … just because the Teals and Labor think that we should go down this, this linear pathway of an all-renewables approach.”

Nuclear numbers don’t stack up

Using data from the CSIRO’s latest GenCost report and the Australian Energy Market Operator’s integrated system plan, the Smart Energy Council estimates the Coalition plan’s cost to taxpayers will be at least $116 billion.

This was equivalent to delivering 82 per cent renewables by 2030, and an almost 100 per cent renewable energy mix by 2050, including the cost of building all of the enabling transmission infrastructure, the council said.

Under the operator’s forecast, the total expenditure required to fund all generation, storage, firming and transmission infrastructure was found to have a 2024-dollar value of $121 billion, to be invested gradually out to 2050.

The bulk of the $121 billion would be invested by the private sector between now and 2050 to deliver about 300 gigawatts of capacity by 2050.

These figures compared to just 11 gigawatts of nuclear capacity funded by the taxpayer in the opposition’s proposal, the council said.

Smart Energy Council chief executive John Grimes said Dutton’s nuclear proposal would deliver “at best” 3.7 per cent of the energy required at the same cost as the government’s strategy.

“In reality, current cost overruns happening right now in the UK could mean a $600 billion bill to Australian taxpayers, whilst delivering a small proportion of the energy that is actually required,” he said.

The council urged the opposition to release its analysis of the costings and generation capacity from the seven proposed reactor sites.

Opposition energy spokesman Ted O’Brien said Australians “won’t have long to wait” until they knew how much energy nuclear power would contribute to the nation’s energy mix.

Littleproud conceded there would be an upfront price but assured Australians the costings would be delivered “well before the election”.

“There’s a big difference between the upfront costs and the dividends that it’ll pay back over the life of the assets,” he told Sky News.

Health Minister Mark Butler accused the Coalition of “playing with figures”.

“Peter Dutton’s plan … would cost $600 billion and that would be paid for by taxpayers – that’s equivalent to about 20 years of Medicare,” he said.

“Nuclear energy is simply far too expensive to invest in, in Australia.”

-with AAP

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