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Nationals no closer to net-zero with multi-billion dollar mining proposal

Taxpayers could soon be called upon to foot the bill to finance the mining sector under a multi-billion dollar proposal from the Nationals.

Resources Minister Keith Pitt and backbench Senator Matt Canavan made the demand on Thursday, with the Australian Financial Review reporting they would push for the government to establish a $250bn publicly funded lending facility of last resort for the sector.

Speaking with ABC Radio National, Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce said he was sympathetic to the proposal but noted it was not yet the position of the Nationals party room.

“What they say is, is a very fair comment that you can’t have your sovereignty of your nation determined by other people … what a board decides that they’ll invest in or not.”

Camera IconBarnaby Joyce was keen to evade questioning on the proposal. Newswire/Gary Ramage Credit: News Corp Australia

Asked if taxpayers should step in where private lending facilities will not, Mr Joyce repeatedly dodged the question.

“I don’t like the idea that our sovereignty of our nation is determined by a financing arm of another country or a board member.”

Host Patricia Karvelas pressed again: “But do you think that the taxpayer should step in?”

“Taxpayers shouldn’t have to step in if banks didn’t, if banks did what they’re supposed to do, and understand that, for our nation to prevail, it must have export dollars.”

Earlier, Coalition colleague and Liberal moderate Jason Falinski rubbished the proposal.

“That’s not a good use of taxpayer funds. The government should not agree to lend money to private companies when the private sector won’t lend the money.”” he told ABC Radio National.

“I mean, we tried this, we tried this in the 1980s. In Victoria, it was called the Pyramid Building Society. It blew up the Victorian economy and almost blew up the Australian economy.

“Government‘s getting involved in lending money to private sector firms has never worked anywhere in the world. It’s not something that we should try and do.”

Large dump truck and small light vehicle.
Camera IconThe mining sector would be propped up under the plan from Nationals MPs Keith Pitt and Matt Canavan. Credit: istock

Despite the looming Glasgow climate summit deadline, Mr Joyce said the Nationals have yet to reach an agreement with their Coalition partners on a net-zero emissions target.

Mr Joyce and the rest of the Nationals leadership group, deputy leader David Littleproud and senior minister Bridget McKenzie, met this morning to discuss the path forward.

“I know the prime minister will no doubt be bringing forward what he sees as the process, we will then bring that back to the Nationals to allow them to have their deliberations,” he said.

“My view as the deputy prime minister and the leader of the Nationals is to ensure we go through a process, which is consideration of anything put before us.”

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