JOKO WIDODO AUSTRALIA VISIT
Former prime minister Malcolm Turnbull says it's "nuts" for the Morrison government to consider backing coal-fired power.
Mr Turnbull was in Canberra on Monday as a guest at a speech to parliament by Indonesian President Joko Widodo, who described climate change as a threat to the region.
The Morrison government is putting $4 million into a feasibility study for a coal-fired power station in north Queensland.
Mr Turnbull said it was no longer a contentious argument to move towards renewable energy generation and storage, and there was no economic basis for building another coal-fired power station.
"Those people who are advocating that the government should fund coal-fired power are basically making a case for higher emissions and higher energy prices, and that is nuts," Mr Turnbull said.
Earlier, Finance Minister Mathias Cormann said coal still had a future in Australia but renewable energy supplies would continue to grow.
"We're assessing what is both environmentally appropriate and economically responsible," Senator Cormann said.
"We will continue to make our judgments based on Australia's national interests."
Nationals MP Michelle Landry said Australia needed cheap, reliable power for the manufacturing sector.
"That's what this (government strategy) is about," Ms Landry told reporters.
"What does annoy me is that there are people in Melbourne who are dead against coal, but where does the power come from?"
Inner-city Liberals are agitating for more government action on climate change.
But former resources minister Matt Canavan is ramping up calls for a new coal-fired power station in Queensland, describing renewable energy as "dole bludgers".
"Renewables are the dole bludgers of the energy system, they only turn up to work when they want to," he wrote in an opinion piece in The Courier-Mail.
The debate within coalition circles comes as lower house crossbenchers throw their support behind an independent MP's bill to curb emissions and re-establish a climate commission.
Warringah MP Zali Steggall's bill also requires a plan for Australia to reach net zero emissions by 2050.
She hopes the bill will mark the end to Australia's "climate wars" and has called on Liberal and Labor MPs to support it.
Trade Minister Simon Birmingham said Australia had already adopted a net zero emissions target by 2050 under the Paris Agreement.
"It's crucial that we play our role in global efforts towards that ultimate target of net zero," he told reporters.
Energy Minister Angus Taylor said the government expects to deliver its 2050 strategy before international climate talks in November in Scotland.
Ms Steggall's bill would require the commission to prepare a public climate risk assessment every five years and provide annual progress reports.
The government would oversee a transition to a lower-carbon economy while setting an emissions budget.
Ms Steggall said she had already had "productive meetings" with Liberal and Labor MPs, and hoped party politics wouldn't get in the way.
She was flanked by fellow lower house independents Andrew Wilkie, Helen Haines and the Centre Alliance's Rebekha Sharkie, as well as health and agriculture advocates.
A net zero emissions target would see Australia balance its carbon books by reducing emissions and removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.