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Business as usual: PM on climate action

AAP logoAAP 5/12/2016

Malcolm Turnbull has played down backbench concern a review of his government's climate action policies may lead to carbon pricing and higher electricity prices, insisting it's been coalition policy since 2010.

The prime minister also reiterated his opposition to a carbon tax.

"This is business as usual," Mr Turnbull told reporters in Sydney on Tuesday in response to savage criticism by conservative Cory Bernardi.

The Liberal senator, who has returned to Australia after a three-month stint with the United Nations in New York - queried the review's terms of reference which includes consideration of an emissions intensity scheme for electricity generators.

Any emissions trading scheme or form of carbon pricing was "economic suicide".

"It's like ripping a scab off an old wound," Senator Bernardi told 2GB radio on Tuesday.

But Mr Turnbull said a review was long-standing coalition policy

"It's part of the policy we took to the election in 2013 and 2016 and, indeed, we took to the election in 2010."

The prime minster reiterated his opposition to a carbon tax as did his deputy Barnaby Joyce.

"There are many distinguished members of the coalition parties who have supported a carbon tax over the past. I've never done."

An emissions intensity scheme sets a baseline for how much carbon dioxide a power station could emit for every unit of power generated, penalising those that breached their limit and rewarding cleaner models that emitted less.

Liberal MP Craig Kelly, who chairs the backbench committee on the environment, says he has no objection to the review leaving everything on the table.

But if it recommended a change in policy that increased the price of electricity "a lot of us in the coalition will not accept that".

"If it pushes electricity prices up this is the real concern I think every member of parliament should have," Mr Kelly told ABC radio.

"We are nervous about it because we think electricity costs, energy costs are such an important factor for every single household, for every single business and we have to be so careful with these schemes."

The expert who worked with Mr Turnbull previously on models for an emissions intensity scheme insists it can't be called a carbon tax.

As well it had "much, much lower impacts on prices", Frontier Economics managing director Danny Price told ABC radio.

"In fact, applied to Australia it actually puts prices lower than they would otherwise be so it can't be claimed that prices will skyrocket because in fact prices will moderate," he said on ABC radio.

Labor leader Bill Shorten said the government needed to adopt a "fair dinkum" climate policy.

"We will look carefully at whatever the government proposes," he told reporters in Sydney on Tuesday.

However Mr Turnbull should not simply float ideas, only to have them shot down by the right wing of his Liberal party.

Liberal frontbencher Dan Tehan denied disunity in coalition ranks over the review.

"Everyone, when there is a review, obviously has their point of view as to what shouldn't be in and what should be in," he told reporters in Canberra.

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