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Matt Kean criticised by Coalition MPs after Labor appoints him new chair of Climate Change Authority
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Matt Kean criticised by Coalition MPs after Labor appoints him new chair of Climate Change Authority

The former New South Wales Liberal treasurer Matt Kean has faced criticism for taking a new job as the new chair of the Climate Change Authority after he was appointed by the Albanese government on Monday.

The prime minister, Anthony Albanese, revealed the former NSW Liberal treasurer had been chosen for the “important” role on Monday in a surprise cross-party appointment.

The authority will play an important role in advising the Albanese government on its 2035 emissions reduction target, due early next year, as part of Australia’s commitment to the Paris agreement.

The climate change minister, Chris Bowen, acknowledged Kean’s Liberal ties but insisted “carbon dioxide doesn’t recognise political parties”.

Kean, a leading Liberal moderate who favoured more ambitious climate policies than his party often proposed, announced last week that he was leaving politics to pursue work in the private sector but acknowledged he would continue to be in the public sector instead.

On Monday, the state member for Hornsby called for a bipartisan consensus in the transition away from fossil fuels.

“This is not about ideology, this is about outcomes,” Kean said.

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The appointment was condemned by some on the conservative side of politics.

The federal Nationals MP and former deputy prime minister Barnaby Joyce questioned whether any of Kean’s words “could be trusted”.

“Can you trust him with all that he said?” Joyce told Sky News. “With all his advocacy? With his sort of bleeding heart, ‘I want to save the world’ kind of approach? Or do you think you’re a mischievous, duplicit[ous] person who was taking us all for a ride?”

“The only thing that’s consistent is [that] this guy is treacherous.”

Guardian Australia contacted Kean for a response to Joyce’s comments.

Other Coalition MPs and senators were more muted in their response to the news, with the shadow health minister, Anne Ruston, labelling the announcement “another distraction” from the cost of electricity in households.

“Well, Mr Kean has got to explain the reasoning behind why he’s taken this particular job,” she said.

“We’ll just keep focusing on what we think is the main game in town, and that is doing whatever we can to try and get a long-term plan to get Australia’s energy prices down.”

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The Queensland LNP senator and outspoken fossil fuels advocate Matt Canavan said he wasn’t surprised or concerned by the news.

“My beef’s not with Matt Kean, my beef’s with the government,” Canavan told Sky News.

“Now Matt Kean’s obviously on ‘team reckless renewables’ … We’ve been failed by, unfortunately, the once-respected CSIRO, who are living in a fantasy land of spreadsheets, rather than looking at what’s happening in the real world. And Matt Kean’s obviously been listening to those people living in that fantasy land.”

The opposition leader, Peter Dutton, revealed last week the Coalition’s proposal to own and operate six or seven nuclear power sites around the country.

The plan was announced without costings, nor an estimate of the amount of electricity it would to the system or how the opposition would meet the ambitious 2035-37 timeframe for the first two plants.

Labor and many crossbenchers have criticised the proposal, labelling it a “risky scam” and a “pipe-dream”, while experts have also said it cannot be achieved within the timeframe put forward by the Coalition and will likely push up power prices.

Asked about the Coalition’s plan to introduce nuclear energy, Kean said the advice to him when he was NSW energy minister considering the transition away from coal was that it was too costly and would take too long.

“I didn’t want to bankrupt the state,” Kean said. “And I didn’t want to put those huge costs on to families.”

Bowen said on Monday he had recommended Kean to the prime minister, who then presented it to cabinet, because “he was the best for the job”.

“When I turned my mind to potential replacements for [the outgoing chair], I could think of none better than Matt Kean,” Bowen said.

Source: theguardian.com