The Abbott government is under internal pressure to amend the renewable energy target (RET), as backbenchers call for aluminium smelters to be exempt from the scheme.
Coalition MPs concerned about the cost imposed by the RET on the energy-intensive industry have signed a petition calling on the government to consider the sector as it reviews the climate policy.
The government is soon expected to complete its review of the RET, which is designed to ensure 20 per cent of all electricity comes from renewable sources by 2020.
The petition signed by 25 coalition MPs follows Palmer United Party MP Clive Palmer’s pledge to oppose any changes to the scheme before 2016.
Liberal backbencher Dan Tehan said the RET review provided an opportunity for a “serious look” at the scheme, which he claimed would hit aluminium producers with an $80 million impost in coming years.
But he denied the coalition was walking away from the policy.
“If it is imposing costs which potentially threaten the long-term viability of industries, then we should take action,” he told ABC Radio on Monday.
The Victorian MP said the Portland aluminium smelter in his electorate provided more than 700 jobs and played a vital role supporting the state’s electricity grid.
The 20 per cent target would still be met if the aluminium sector was given a complete exemption from the policy, he said.
Junior minister Mitch Fifield denied there was any internal division, saying that signatories to the petition had “simply made a suggestion”.
Their input to the review was welcome, he said.
But Labor’s Andrew Leigh said the proposal lacked merit, arguing taxes and charges should apply across the board.
“This is a very strange call being made by the next generation of Liberal party leaders,” he told Sky News.