By Anthony Albanese, MP, Labor Leader;
For nearly a decade, Scott Morrison, Barnaby Joyce and the Coalition have worn blinkers when it comes to renewable energy.
They have played the politics so hard they have completely missed the opportunities presented by climate change action. The bigger picture is jobs for Australians, not just in renewables, but right across the economy.
The Coalition’s rhetoric about technology is completely at odds with what they have done in practice.
During the last election campaign they claimed electric vehicles would “end the weekend’’.
This nonsense betrays Australia’s interests. Growth in the global EV market is boosting demand for Australian lithium. It also offers us a golden opportunity to develop a homegrown battery manufacturing industry and create more jobs.
The Coalition rejects such opportunities. Instead, they want to slug taxpayers $600 million for a gas-fired power plant the energy sector says we don’t need and which will drive up power bills. But Mr Morrison and Mr Joyce are becoming increasingly isolated.
A week ago British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, a conservative, told the United Nations General Assembly: “In the years to come, the only great powers will be green powers’’.
Mr Johnson’s comment came in a warm-up speech for November’s UN climate change conference in Glasgow, where he will urge outlier nations including Australia to commit to reducing carbon emissions to net zero by 2050.
Mr Morrison has previously ridiculed the 2050 target. He is unmoved by the fact it is backed by peak Australian business and agricultural groups and our major trading partners.
The facts are clear enough. According to the International Renewable Energy Agency, the cost of renewable energy generation has fallen by as much as 82 per cent over the past decade.
This is a good thing for Australia. We have an abundance of solar and wind resources. Lower power prices from renewable energy will cut consumers bills and also reduce business overheads, clearing the way for job creation right across the economy.
Australia also has a once-in-a-generation opportunity to jump to ahead of the pack and become a renewal energy superpower.
We can also use lower power prices to create new industries that add value to our existing resource industries, providing real opportunities for jobs growth in regional Australia. The opportunities are real and lucrative.
But in the international race for the jobs of the future, Australia is way off the pace, with our government so divided it cannot even agree on a domestic energy policy despite more than 20 attempts.
We’ve lost 2700 clean energy jobs under Mr Morrison, at a time when we should have been seeing job growth.
In a recent ABC radio interview Mr Joyce was asked to outline a plan for reducing carbon emissions.
Incredibly, Mr Joyce said: “We don’t actually come up with the plan.”
That is absurd. Mr Joyce might not want to lead, but Labor stands ready to shape change to our national interests.
Our existing resources industries will continue for as long as there is global demand for their products.
But a Labor Government will also encourage greater use of renewables in Australia and get behind businesses so they can reap the benefits.
We will create a $15 billion National Reconstruction Authority to provide loans, loan guarantees and seed funding for businesses investing in sectors like manufacturing, defence industry and renewable technologies.
We want Australia to make electric batteries and export them to the world. We’ll also provide tax breaks to cut the cost of electric vehicles.
We will connect up to 100,000 homes to 400 community batteries around Australia, allowing households which produce solar power to store it for sale back into the grid when the sun is not shining and the wind is not blowing.
And we will establish the $20 billion Rewiring the Nation fund to fix transmission and rebuild our energy grid so it can efficiently distribute the energy from new renewable ventures.
Rewiring the Nation will create thousands of new construction jobs across the country and make our energy grid fit for the 21st century.
It is said that change is the only constant in life. But change always comes with a companion: opportunity.
When opportunity comes ringing, Mr Morrison refuses to pick up the phone. A Labor Government won’t repeat his mistake.
Anthony Albanese in the Leader of the Australian Labor Party.