Energy Minister Angus Taylor claims Labor leader Anthony Albanese has failed to rule out a carbon tax, when pushing for bipartisan talks with the Morrison government over a national energy policy.
However Mr Albanese says a carbon price is no longer necessary and the government needs to find new ways to drive investment in renewables.
Mr Albanese used an address to the National Press Club on Wednesday to offer an olive branch to the Coalition over energy policy, as Australia faces its first recession in three decades due to the coronavirus.
He said the opposition was willing to negotiate on a national energy policy without seeking to revive the National Energy Guarantee or Clean Energy Target. Mr Albanese also said it was not essential that the parties agreed on a firm emissions-reduction target, so long as it could be lifted by future governments.
"Energy policy paralysis and uncertainty has been a major contributor to the decline in business investment. It has resulted in higher costs for business. Removing this handbrake must be an important part of facilitating the economic recovery that is needed," Mr Albanese said.
Business groups welcomed the push for bipartisanship.
Australian Industry Group chief executive Innes Willox told a Senate committee on Wednesday certainty in energy policy in Australia was long overdue.
"We have argued for a long time, going back a decade or so, that there needs to be policy certainty that goes beyond the political cycle to allow investment to be made longer-term in energy or energy-related investment," Mr Willox said.
"It's only when you're going to get that policy or regulatory certainty that businesses will be prepared to invest on the scale that is necessary to provide us with that cheaper and more reliable power that we all need. You have to have that longer-term thinking and that longer-term certainty to get the results you want."
The fact is that the cheapest form of new energy in this country [today] is renewables. It's solar and wind. The circumstances have changed.Anthony Albanese
However Mr Taylor claimed Labor had not ruled out pursuing a policy that put a price on carbon.
"We heard the Leader of the Opposition today a number of times fail to rule out a carbon tax and that has been the favoured policy position of the Labor government time and time again whether it's an explicit one or a sneaky one, but our focus is clear, it's technology, not taxation, it's bringing down the cost of energy, it's making sure Australians can make ends meet whether it's in their households or their businesses, that's our focus," Mr Taylor said.
"The focus of our energy policy is about affordable energy, reliable energy and bringing down emissions without wrecking the economy and we're kicking goals."
Treasurer Josh Frydenberg also sought to link the Labor Party's pledge to higher taxes.
"Our policies have always been to focus on technology, not taxation," Mr Frydenberg told Sky News
"The Labor Party's track record has been for higher taxes to reduce emissions."
However Mr Albanese told the Press Club a price on carbon was no longer necessary.
"The thing about where we were in 2007 ... is that renewables at that time needed support in terms of a market-based mechanism. The fact is that the cheapest form of new energy in this country [today] is renewables. It's solar and wind. The circumstances have changed.
"Renewables today are looking for a different framework. So if you ask are we going back to the old system, the answer to that is no. We're looking forward, not backwards. And we're looking forward at a mechanism that will drive that change through the economy."
The Greens and conservation groups have also taken aim at Labor's willingness to support carbon capture technology so long as funding for ARENA and the Clean Energy Finance Corporation was not "raided" to support it.
Carbon capture and storage is a process where waste carbon dioxide from big emitters such as power plants or large factories is captured and transported to a storage site and deposited in a way it cannot enter the atmosphere.
"The Chief Scientist, the IPCC and the international energy agency all advise that [carbon capture and storage] must be part of the solution to reach net zero emissions," Mr Albanese said.
However Greens leader Adam Bandt said introducing a mechanism for carbon capture and storage would further entrench Australia's use of coal for energy production.
"An energy plan premised on the unicorn technology of carbon capture and storage is doomed to failure," Mr Bandt said.
"We need a plan to get coal out of the system, not to lock it in."
Mr Bandt also said holding out for bipartisanship was a "recipe for inaction".
"You don't end the climate wars by surrendering," he said.
The Australian Conservation Foundation was also critical of the move to support carbon capture.
While it welcomed the move towards a bipartisan approach to energy and the desire to agree to an emissions-reduction mechanism that can be strengthened by future governments, it described carbon capture and storage as an "expensive, unproven red herring".
"No political party should be banking on carbon capture and storage to deliver emissions reductions, especially as renewables continue to exceed expectations on price and reliability," the foundation's climate program manager, Gavan McFadzean, said.