Tony Abbott threatens to cross the floor on energy policy

Former prime minister Tony Abbott has threatened to cross the floor of Parliament and vote against any move to introduce a clean-energy target, describing as "unconscionable" any move to wind back support for coal in favour of renewables.

In his first interview with his former chief of staff Peta Credlin on Sky News' Jones & Co on Tuesday night, Mr Abbott described climate change as "very much a third order issue".

He suggested Liberal MPs had "extremely serious reservations" about the government's clean energy target, and said last year's power blackouts in South Australia had influenced the attitude of Liberal MPs to renewable energy.

"I think there is no chance that our party room will support any significant increase in the amount of renewables in our system."

Tony Abbott has suggested governments should build coal-fired power stations: "We have Snowy 2.0. Let's have Hazelwood 2.0."  Photo: Andrew Meares

Tony Abbott has suggested governments should build coal-fired power stations: "We have Snowy 2.0. Let's have Hazelwood 2.0." Photo: Andrew Meares

Asked whether he would support an attempt by Mr Turnbull to legislate for a clean-energy target, Mr Abbott replied: "It would be unconscionable, I underline that word unconscionable, for a government that was originally elected promising to abolish the carbon tax and end Labor's climate change obsessions to go further down the renewables path," he said.

The Turnbull government has a one-seat majority in Parliament, underscoring the potential of Mr Abbott's threat to do real damage to the government.

In an opinion piece published in News Corp on Wednesday, Mr Abbott backed up his threats with the observation: "this is where the Liberal and National backbench might need to save the government from itself".

Mr Abbott's appearance on Jones & Co coincided with the second anniversary of the Liberal Party dumping him as prime minister, which prompted Mr Jones to observe: "It's been a rough week - two years since you were cleaned out."

Mr Abbott said "by all means reduce our emissions" before saying it would not make any difference since Australia only produced 1 per cent of the world's total emissions.

"The idea that we should turn the economy upside-down [and] the idea that we should not just be a pain in the pocket of consumers," he said, "but de-industrialise into the bargain and not make any difference at all to allegedly saving the planet is just absurd and that's why it's time for a very serious policy rethink."

After her co-host Alan Jones observed it had taken a long time to entice the former prime minister onto the show, Ms Credlin said: "I think he was scared of me."

However, Mr Abbott was not afraid of attacking the Turnbull government's energy policy.

Asked by Ms Credlin if he would scrap subsidies for renewable forms of energy, Mr Abbott said: "We have to respect people who have made investments in the existing system. We don't want additional sovereign risk factors bedevilling our economy."

But he said there should be no further subsidies: "There should be no subsidies for further solar and wind because this is inherently unreliable."

Mr Abbott also suggested governments should build coal-fired power stations.

"Power generation is an essential service and if the market won't build coal-fired power stations, if the market won't build base load power, the government has got to," he said.

Referring to Victoria's Hazelwood power station, which was shut down this year, he said: "We have Snowy 2.0. Let's have Hazelwood 2.0."

During the interview with Mr Jones, who supports same-sex marriage, and Ms Credlin, the former prime minister also reiterated his opposition to same-sex marriage.

"I, like everyone, know lots of gay people, Alan," he said.

"I have gay friends. I have gay family. I respect them. I love them.

"But I do not want to surrender a concept of marriage, which has been with us since time immemorial, and this is a sacrificial concept if you like, of marriage being between a [man] and a woman, one man and one woman, preferably for life and usually devoted for children.

"Now I don't believe we should junk this just because a bunch of activists suddenly say we have to."

Expressing concern about the protection of religious freedoms, Mr Abbott said the Turnbull government had abdicated responsibility to a group of private members instead of drafting a bill for same-sex marriage before putting the matter to voters.

"I think there's a fundamental mistake the government has made here," he said. "Putting this matter to a plebiscite without giving the public the detail upon which they're having to vote. So they're asking us to sign a blank cheque."

This story Tony Abbott threatens to cross the floor on energy policy first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.