Climate deal earns Nationals cabinet seat

Keith Pitt is back in cabinet, months after being demoted following the Nationals leadership change.
Keith Pitt is back in cabinet, months after being demoted following the Nationals leadership change.

The Nationals have gained an extra cabinet seat following the party's in-principle support for the government's plan for net-zero emissions by 2050.

Details of the plan, and regional support measures won by the Nationals, will be revealed by Prime Minister Scott Morrison on Tuesday.

Resources Minister Keith Pitt was elevated back into cabinet, just months after he was demoted after Barnaby Joyce regained the Nationals leadership in June.

Nationals deputy leader David Littleproud told the ABC the plan would be released on Tuesday.

"We will be honest with the Australian people about this rather than just sign up blindly," he said.

"That's what is important. That's what people want out of politicians and that's what we'll do (on Tuesday)."

Cabinet was due to meet on Monday night to finalise the details.

Mr Pitt, an outspoken critic of climate targets and proponent of coal and gas, was targeted in question time by the opposition about his stance on net-zero and whether he supported the Nationals agreement.

"(Labor) are all about digging up dirt but not in the way the resources sector does it," he said.

In a statement after his reappointment to cabinet, Mr Pitt said he was committed to regional communities.

The prime minister said Australia was on track to meet and beat emission reductions targets.

"What Australia can point to is a track record of delivering a 20 per cent reduction in emissions at the same time as Australia has achieved a 40 per cent increase in the size of our economy," he said.

"I'd like to see another country match that."

Despite reports Nationals leader Barnaby Joyce told Sunday's party room meeting he did not back the net-zero, he told parliament he supported the 2050 target.

Nationals MP Darren Chester, who supported the deal, said he hoped division over climate within the coalition would end following the net-zero agreement.

"There are extremities on the left and the right, but most Australians are somewhere about the sensible centre when it comes to this issue," Mr Chester said.

"It's almost impossible to imagine that 21 people coming from all around Australia agree on every issue."

Labor's climate change spokesman Chris Bowen said the government had been dragged "kicking and screaming" on a deal for net-zero.

"If Keith Pitt is returning to the cabinet as part of this deal, it tells the lie," he said.

"It's not about jobs in the regions - it's about one job for one member of the National Party. It's all about them, not about the people they are meant to represent."

The prime minister said the government would not support a plan for net-zero emissions unless there was a plan to achieve it.

"The people in rural Australia deserve that, they deserve to know what the plan is and how we're going to achieve it," he said.

The government has so far refused to release the modelling for its 2050 target.

The Climate Change Authority confirmed on Monday it was not asked to advise the government about updating the 2030 or 2050 targets.

Australian Associated Press