A high-profile prospective candidate for Nick Xenophon’s new SA Best party, set up to contest the next South Australian election, has sparked internal division by slamming “reckless” renewable energy targets that hurt business and make little difference to the environment.
Peter Humphries, a well-known lawyer in South Australia with a long association to Senator Xenophon, yesterday announced his nomination to represent SA Best as an upper house candidate at the state election due on March 17 next year.
But there was immediate division between Senator Xenophon’s prospective new star candidate and his “golden girl”, federal NXT MP Rebekha Sharkie, over energy policy.
The Xenophon party platform is for a 50 per cent renewable (electricity only) energy target by 2030.
As Mr Humphries argued against South Australia’s target of 50 per cent renewables by 2025, Ms Sharkie said she disagreed and stated that “myself and my team”, including Senator Xenophon, backed a 50 per cent target.
During interviews with ABC Radio and The Australian, Mr Humphries rubbished the Weatherill government’s “reckless rush to embrace alternative energy targets”. “This is really vanity politics, in my opinion, and the state pays the price,” he said. “The state has been devastated by the approach of this government to energy.”
The retired lawyer argued against Premier Jay Weatherill’s ambition of taking an international leadership role on renewables and told The Australian the state’s renewables target was “bullshit”.
“The thing that annoys me is that it’s so bloody pointless. South Australia could turn off and nobody would notice,” Mr Humphries said. “South Australia is not going to save the world … China has 400-500 coal-fired power plants; we had two. Monty Python couldn’t make this stuff up.”
South Australia has a more than 40 per cent mix of renewable energy generation. Mr Weatherill was forced last month to release a $550 million “self-sufficient” energy plan that included temporary diesel generators and a new $360m gas-fired power plant to stabilise the wind-reliant grid.
But Ms Sharkie rejected Mr Humphries’s position, despite “some of the challenges” of wind power. “I can’t say that I think coal is the future,” she said.
“I think South Australia, Australia and what we’re seeing across Asia is many countries are now saying: ‘We’re going to take the lead on renewable energy, that coal is not good for humanity.’ ”
Senator Xenophon said last September that South Australia’s energy arrangements were a “textbook case” of how not to transition to renewable energy.
“I support the renewable energy target, but it’s how you achieve it … this has not been sensible, it has been reckless,” he said at the time.
Additional reporting: Maddison Reace
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