Sparks fly as Frydenberg, Weatherill clash over energy at tense media conference

The Turnbull government's Energy Minister Josh Frydenberg and Labor Premier Jay Weatherill attended the same press conference in Adelaide, apparently without either man knowing the other would be there.


Source: SBS

The federal energy minister and the premier of South Australia have traded barbs over their disagreement on energy policy.

The Turnbull government's Energy Minister Josh Frydenberg and SA Labor Premier Jay Weatherill attended the same press conference in Adelaide to mark the switching on of a so-called virtual power plant; a connected series of solar-powered batteries across the city. 

Both men said they did not expect the other to be present. 

Mr Frydenberg has been deeply critical of the SA Weatherill government's emphasis on renewable energy, as well as its recent decision to build a new state-owned gas power plant. 

The two stood shoulder-to-shoulder in a frosty press conference. 

Watch: Jay Weatherill and Josh Frydenberg clash at an energy press conference

Mr Weatherill said it was "an outrage" that Mr Frydenberg would try to claim credit for the solar scheme after being so critical of his government's "ideological" fixation with renewable energy. 

The two men clashed over the federal government and the SA government's divergent approaches to energy policy.

Mr Frydenberg said SA should have waited for the outcome of a national review by the Chief Scientist, rather than forging ahead with a $550 million program to build a new gas power plant and a 100MW battery to store green energy. 

In reply, the premier blasted the minister for the Turnbull government's newly announced upgrade to the Snowy Hydro scheme, which will provide an estimated 2000 additional megawatts of power to the grid. 

"We have today this two billion-dollar insult where money is being spent to keep the lights on in Sydney at a time when we're facing energy shortages over the coming summer," Mr Weatherill said.

"That's why our plan is about acting ... in South Australia's interests.

"It's about making sure that we can stand on our own two feet, because we know that we're being let down by a federal government that's anti-South Australia."

Mr Frydenberg said the premier had "crash-tackled" the press conference, and described Mr Weatherill's behaviour as unbecoming for a state leader. 

Speaking later on the ABC's 7.30 program, the minister expressed his disappointment at the day's events, describing it as a "silly stunt".

Mr Frydenberg went on to accuse Mr Weatherill of "hijacking" the press conference "in order for him to score some cheap political points."

"I am very disappointed with the behaviour of the premier today because I don't think it was appropriate when we were making a positive announcement," he said.

The prime minister then weighed in on ABC's Lateline.

"Wetherill created the problem himself, he's the one that closed down, he's the one that  saw gas fired stations go out of operation he's the one that did nothing on storage, now that's a fact," he said.

3 min read
Published 16 March 2017 at 11:24am
By James Elton-Pym