Turnbull comments on AGL meeting 'Trumpean showmanship': Cousins

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Malcolm Turnbull's trumpeting over yesterday's meeting with AGL boss Andy Vesey is just Trumpean showmanship, says

turnbull-comments-on-agl-meeting--and-039;trumpean-showmanship-and-039;-cousins photo 1 Photo: Andy Vesey and Malcolm Turnbull have offered differing accounts of yesterday's meeting. (ABC)

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull's trumpeting over yesterday's meeting with AGL boss Andy Vesey is nothing more than "Trumpean showmanship", says former prime ministerial adviser and business veteran Geoff Cousins.

Mr Turnbull called Mr Vesey to his office in Canberra to try to convince him to keep the company's Hunter Valley Liddell power plant open beyond its 2022 closing date.

While the Government says it emerged successful, the two parties have offered differing accounts of what was agreed during the 90-minute meeting.

But Mr Cousins, who has served on several company boards and was an adviser to former prime minister John Howard, said no government can instruct a CEO how to conduct their business.

turnbull-comments-on-agl-meeting--and-039;trumpean-showmanship-and-039;-cousins photo 2 Photo: Geoff Cousins says AGL's decision over the Liddell power plant comes as no surprise. (ABC News)

"It's kind of a piece of Trumpean showmanship is all this is. You might remember when Trump first became the President in the United States, he was suddenly calling CEOs of major companies into his office," Mr Cousins said.

"What they do look to prime ministers for is sound government policy in the industries in which they operate, but they don't take instructions and prime ministers don't have any ability to give any instructions."

Mr Cousins, who currently chairs the Australian Conservation Foundation board, said the Prime Minister has been hamstrung by members of his own partyroom.

"I don't think there's any doubt about it at all. Malcolm Turnbull in his heart of hearts knows perfectly well that the important thing for Australia is to transition from this old technology," he said.

"I'm sure Malcolm Turnbull would like to do it, but it would appear that certain elements of his party have captured him and they won't allow him to."

AGL made future coal plan very clear: Cousins

Yesterday's meeting, which also included Energy Minister Josh Frydenberg, would likely have involved Mr Turnbull asking for a favour, according to Mr Cousins.

"The Prime Minister would have said to Andy Vesey, 'I'm in a bit of a spot. I'd like you to give me a hand. At the very least, say you'll take this plan to your board'," he said.

"Andy Vesey is a man of some conviction. He has made his views on what should happen in the energy sector entirely clear.

"But he would have said, 'I'll take it to the board. But please understand that it is a matter of long-term policy we do not believe investments of this kind are viable'."

Mr Cousins says AGL's decision over the Liddell plant would not have come as a surprise to the Federal Government.

"AGL and Andy Vesey, the CEO, who I know well, has made the policy of the company extremely clear a couple of years ago that AGL wanted to get out of coal, out of fossil fuels," he said.

"The Government just ignored all that, as it has ignored also comments from the banks that they are not going to invest in fossil fuels any more."

Government MP Craig Kelly also weighed in, describing AGL as "probably one of our biggest corporate villains" and accused the company of duplicitous behaviour.

"This seems to be completely contrary to the information that was coming out of the meeting with the Prime Minister, and I think it appears AGL speaks with forked tongue," he said.

But Mr Cousins said the Government's claim that it is acting in the national interest and that the company is only acting in its own corporate interests is untrue.

"I think the actions of the Government give the lie to that. The Government is acting in its own political interest," he said.

"It's a bit like Turnbull suddenly turning around and saying, 'We're not going to invest in the NBN anymore. We're going to revive the old copper network for telephony'."

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Article Turnbull comments on AGL meeting 'Trumpean showmanship': Cousins compiled by Original article here

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