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Turnbull firm against emissions plan

AAP logoAAP 8/12/2016 Paul Osborne, AAP Senior Political Writer

Malcolm Turnbull has warned state and territory leaders he won't agree to any climate policy that puts pressure on electricity prices, which have already risen 50 per cent in six years.

But some of the premiers have hit back saying the prime minister has missed an opportunity - in not supporting a national emissions intensity scheme (EIS) - to take pressure off prices while reducing blackouts and addressing climate change.

The Council of Australian Governments meeting in Canberra on Friday received an interim report by chief scientist Dr Alan Finkel, which concluded that an EIS "had the lowest economic costs and the lowest impact on electricity prices".

Addressing the meeting, he said it was the lack of clarity about a national emissions reduction policy beyond 2020 that was adding to investment uncertainty and pushing up prices.

But Mr Turnbull said the proposed scheme was a carbon tax and the government would not support it.

"We cannot ignore the pressure that puts on Australian households, on Australian businesses, on Australian jobs," Mr Turnbull told reporters after the meeting.

The meeting agreed to have energy ministers work on ways to improve the reliability of the electricity system, particularly following problems in South Australia.

SA Premier Jay Weatherill said it was a missed opportunity to put in place a national policy.

"We're not proposing a carbon tax and it's mischievous to suggest that we are," he said.

"The whole point of Dr Finkel's recommendation is this puts downward pressure on electricity prices."

Opposition Leader Bill Shorten said by ruling out a plan which would save $15 billion on energy bills over a decade, Mr Turnbull was "harming the environment, the economy and jobs".

West Australian Premier Colin Barnett said the solution lay in developing more gas on the east coast and reserving more of it for domestic use.

"The situation on the east coast would be a lot better with a few simple fundamental reforms rather than exotic and eloquent market solutions," he said.

SA, Queensland and Victoria decided not to join other states and territories that signed up to a new agreement on competition reform, arguing the federal government still needed to honour other agreements such as bonuses for privatising assets and had not provided any incentive funding to ink the deal.

Mr Turnbull said the agreement would reduce red tape and drive economic reform.

NSW Premier Mike Baird, who signed up to the agreement, said the latest economic growth figures were sobering and the solution lay in spending more on infrastructure.

It is understood when Mr Baird suggested a new national infrastructure fund, the prime minister told the meeting: "We are not an ATM."

"One of the best things that we can do in terms of driving economic growth in the next few years is bring infrastructure forward," Mr Baird said.

Agreement was reached on a new classification for the controversial seven-shot Adler shotgun, which will go into the most restrictive category D.

The leaders also agreed to set state targets for closing the gap between indigenous and non-indigenous people on a range of measures from education to health.

No decision was made on a nationwide standard for family violence leave.

Murray-Darling Basin governments will ask their water ministers to report to the next COAG meeting with practical solutions and projects to implement the basin plan in full.

School funding talks have been scheduled for 2017, with arrangements to be agreed early in the year.

Similarly, a long-term hospital funding deal will be discussed next year ahead of a formal agreement in 2018.

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