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Malcolm Turnbull dumped from role on NSW government clean energy board after 'media backlash'

ABC NEWS logo ABC NEWS 6/04/2021
Malcolm Turnbull wearing glasses and smiling at the camera: Malcolm Turnbull has been dumped a week after being appointed the board's chair. (ABC News: Peter Rothwell) © Provided by ABC NEWS Malcolm Turnbull has been dumped a week after being appointed the board's chair. (ABC News: Peter Rothwell)

Former prime minister Malcolm Turnbull says the NSW government has capitulated to a "ferocious campaign" from the media after his appointment to a clean energy board was overturned.

Last week, NSW Environment Minister Matt Kean had backed Mr Turnbull to lead the Net Zero Emissions and Clean Economy board, adding he was a great friend.

This morning, however, Mr Kean released a statement saying Mr Turnbull could "distract" from the board's goal of creating jobs in low carbon industries and reducing state emissions while growing the economy.

"The focus should not be on personality," Mr Kean said.

"Malcolm Turnbull AC has contributed much to our country and I know will contribute more into the future.

"However, no person's role on the Board should distract from achieving results for the NSW people."

Before his appointment, Mr Turnbull had written a letter objecting to the expansion of a coal mine in the Mount Pleasant area, in the Hunter Valley, citing concerns for his nearby grazing property.

The former prime minister said he spoke with Mr Kean yesterday about the decision.

"Mr Kean said to me there was no conflict of interest between anything I have said or anything Lucy (Turnbull) has said or what we have written about coal mining in the Hunter," Mr Turnbull told ABC Radio Sydney.

"The net zero board has nothing to do with coal mining approvals for a start. But he said he does not want personalities to be a distraction."

Mr Turnbull, who has been a fierce critic of News Corp, said the government had caved to pressure from the Murdoch press by reversing his appointment.

"There was a pretty ferocious campaign, a vendetta, really, in the characteristic way that News Corp operates," Mr Turnbull said.

"Its goal was to bully the state government into not appointing me chair of this net zero board."

Mr Turnbull last year joined another former prime minister, Labor's Kevin Rudd, in backing a petition for a royal commission into media diversity and the role of Rupert Murdoch's News Corp, saying they both believe "News Corp is a malevolent and partisan force in Australian political life".

NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian said she admired Mr Turnbull and that "whether you agree with him or not, he's always been very courageous in his views and that's something that should be respected".

"Unfortunately for everyone concerned it was proving to be a distraction," she said.

NSW Deputy Premier John Barilaro said on Nine Radio this morning that he was embarrassed he had agreed to Mr Turnbull's appointment.

"I gave the benefit of the doubt to the Liberals and the benefit of the doubt to Malcolm Turnbull and he pulled my pants down within 48 hours," Mr Barilaro said.

Mr Barilaro said the issue of air quality in mining areas had been manipulated.

"This whole issue around clean air especially in the Upper Hunter and across the state is that people manipulate the data to suit their argument," Mr Barilaro said.

"And for someone to be appointed in a government role and not understand the passion and the policies of the government in itself shows they are thick-headed and they are not interested in what is right and good for the economy."

The state seat of Upper Hunter is facing a by-election next month, after the resignation of disgraced Nationals MP Michael Johnsen.

Mr Kean said a new chair for the board would be announced "in due course" and until then, the NSW chief scientist and engineer would act in the role.

The purpose of the board was to drive innovative technology and sustainable practices to reduce the state's emissions by 35 per cent by 2030 and 100 per cent by 2050.


Video: Turnbull backs coal mine moratorium (Sky News Australia)

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