The state opposition has called attention in parliament to shares in a coal company held by the National Party’s renewable energy spokesperson and Ballina state candidate, Ben Franklin.
NSW Shadow Minister for the North Coast and deputy opposition leader Walt Secord said the annual pecuniary interest register, published on October 22, showed that Mr Franklin owned shares in Firestone Energy Pty Ltd, a West Perth based coal company, ‘which is currently exploring for coal deposits’.
But Mr Franklin has hit back, saying the company has been delisted, the shares are worthless and he ‘literally can’t give them away’.
Mr Secord launched his attack during Questions without Notice.
He called on Mr Franklin to ‘divest’ himself of his coal portfolio and to ‘come clean’ on why he is a looking to profit from backing coal.
‘This is a major embarrassment for the Berejiklian Government and shows the duplicity of the Nationals,’ Mr Secord said.
‘Backing coal shows that Ben Franklin and the Nationals are out of step with the values held by residents across the North Coast.’
‘This is the height of hypocrisy. Ben Franklin is secretly looking to profit by investing in the promotion and development of coal.’
‘The families of Ballina, Byron and the entire North Coast know that climate change is real and they will not appreciate the duplicity of Mr Franklin,’ he said.
But Mr Franklin retorted that Labor had ‘exposed themselves badly on this and showed that they are more interested in playing political games than achieving genuine policy outcomes’.
‘If Mr Secord had bothered to show me the courtesy of asking me about the issue, I would have advised him that my shareholding is actually tiny – worth no more than a couple of hundred dollars,’ Mr Franklin said.
‘And I would also have advised him that I tried to sell these shares before I was appointed as Parliamentary Secretary for Renewable Energy, but the company was delisted two years ago and it is literally not possible to either buy or sell any shares in it,’ he said.
‘I am a passionate supporter of reducing our emissions and creating a renewable energy future for this nation,’ Mr Franklin said.
‘But to achieve this… and to create sensible policy more broadly, we need good people from all sides of politics working together
‘Unfortunately, NSW Labor showed today that they are not interested in that but just want to engage in lies and smear,’ Mr Franklin said.