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Shorten hails cheap wind and solar, but will he stop Adani?

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Credit: AAP

You would have missed it, if you were relying on mainstream media, but Labor leader Bill Shorten did actually mention clean energy and climate policies in his scene-setting speech for 2018, which may well turn out to be an election year.

The mainstream media focus was largely on unions, pay, and the proposed integrity commission, but in a much-missed contrast to a government focused on being a major exporter of war machines, backing carbon capture and storage, and backing new coal generation and new thermal coal mines, Shorten had an alternative.

“If we want lower prices and more secure energy we have to back the transition to renewables,” he said in his speech to the National Press Club on Tuesday.

“If we want new industries and new technologies creating new jobs here, then we have to back the transition to renewables.

“And if we want our kids to be able to take their kids to the reef, then we have to back the transition to renewables.

“We’re Australians, we’ve got the brains and the get up and go – you bet we can build an energy system where everyone can have energy at an affordable price and indeed, renewables helping the environment.”

So at least one of the major parties is saying it, and the contrast with the Coalition could not be more stark.

A month after the world turned its calendar to 2018, and the growing promise of wind, solar, storage, and electric vehicles, the Coalition appears to have  jumped into a time capsule and set the date for half a century ago.

Its bizarre and ill-founded ranting at renewables and EVs, and its desperation to rediscover the past glories of a “nation building project” like Snowy 2.0 echo that of the Trump administration, which is dismantling environmental protections and chasing a futile goal of “saving” coal.

“We have ended the war on beautiful clean coal,” President Trump declared in his State of the Union address. Australia’s Coalition shares Trump’s disregard for technology progress, energy economics and environmental impacts.

That means Shorten can find plenty of fodder against the Coalition rhetoric, and the uncertainty around its proposed National Energy Guarantee.

“Every time a light globe flickers, the government spend a whole Question Time blaming renewables,” he said.

“Yet analysis from Bloomberg New Energy Finance shows the Liberals’ so-called Energy Guarantee would see annual investment in large-scale renewable energy cut by 95 per cent.

“No serious energy plan, anywhere in the world, is built on the assumption of a decline in renewables investment.

“It’s like releasing a roads policy based on the resurgence of the horse and cart… or an National Broadband Network based upon copper.”

Shorten re-iterated that Labor’s “objectives” are “clear, achievable and responsible”, and include 50 per cent renewables by 2030, a 45 per cent cut in pollution (emissions) by 2030, and zero net pollution by 2050.

The question of how exactly this occurs is still not answered. But one wonders why, with a gift in the form of Craig Kelly spouting such nonsense across the aisle, Labor does not seek to make more of their differences.

Shorten was put on the spot by Katharine Murphy, from the Guardian, the only mainstream publication with a deep and abiding interest in climate and clean energy, about the Galilee Basin, and whether Labor would seek to stop the Adani mine, or just shut its eyes.

It was a well-timed question, given that environmental NGOs are seeking to replicate their success in the recent Queensland state election by targeting the seat of Batman, where Labor’s David Feeney is likely to go back to the polls over his citizenship.

“You can’t be serious about climate change and energy and have a bet every which way,” Shorten said. “So we’re certainly looking at the Adani matter very closely. If it doesn’t stack up commercially or if it doesn’t stack up environmentally, it will absolutely not receive our support.”

That’s still not saying he will veto it, but it is a step closer.

Shorten promised that he would spend 2018 “explaining to people why I think we can do better”, with a particular mention about “the hard generational issues, even if it they are politically difficult, even if it means confronting scare campaigns or vested interests.”

Time will tell exactly how far he wants to go with that. Technology, and the plunging costs of renewables, the emergence of storage and the possibilities of a smarter, faster, cleaner, cheaper and more reliable grid, should play into his hands.

As Audrey Zibelman, the head of the Australian Energy Market Operator, told RenewEconomy’s Energy Insiders podcast last year, trying to stop the energy revolution would be like trying to stop the internet.

Prime minister Malcolm Turnbull’s history with the NBN is proof that some governments will try. It’s a yawning chasm that must be filled.  

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  • Brian Tehan

    Can he actually halt Adani, as opposed to making it even more difficult for them than it is now? What laws could he use – environmental – damage to the Artesian Basin? I’m not sure.

    • JIm

      What approvals are needed that haven’t been granted already? How impactful a project will be doesn’t seem to matter that much.

      • Joe

        Adani with has been supported by The COALition and Labor are in the courts to extinguish Native Title Laws surrounding The Carmichael Coalmine. As I understand it, the Native Title Law issue now in court is the last legal impediment to the coalmine going ahead. If Native Title is extinguished then only lack of commercial financing would stop the coalmine.unless of course The Federal Government changed its mind and withdrew its existing approval.

        • stalga

          The W&J people have a case set down for March to challenge the validity of the ILUA. They are currently seeking an injunction on the Native Title decision until after their March hearing. Fingers crossed.

          • Jon

            The Aurizon NAIF concessional loan is due to be assessed by the Qld Government’s “high-level cabinet budget review committee” which consists of Deputy Premier and Treasurer Jackie Trad and State Development Minister Cameron Dick.
            I’d suggest contacting them to put pressure towards vetoing the NAIF loan.

            Adani’s current date for finance is the end of March, having a statement from Qld gov vetoing the Aurizon loan before then would be very nice.

          • stalga

            Good idea, I only thought of the Feds. NAIF didn’t respond to my formal correspondence and request for a reply last year, they must be busy.

            Trad was the mover to veto the loan last year, it probably saved her her seat in the election. I expect a similar scenario will occur.

        • MaxG

          The odds are stacked against them… potentially loosing native title in a tribunal stacked and paid for by Adani requires support in order to stop this mine or the mines going forward along with damage to the water in the Artesian Basin. Support for the Wangan and Jagalingou country can me given here: http://wanganjagalingou.com.au/donate/

    • Joe

      Hawke stopped the The Franklin Dam. Stopping Adani is even easier with the ever more fragile environment and the implication of climate change that is already impacting The Reef which just happens to be a World Heritage Site and the largest living structure in the world. If that isn’t enough to stop Adani then….send me to Mars.

      • Jo

        I know a few others whom I would like to send to Mars first.

        • nakedChimp

          We can send those to Venus instead 😉

          • Alex

            If we don’t stop using coal we’ll all be “sent to Venus”.

    • Hettie

      Not a lot from opposition, but once in government, please dog, he could get serious legislation to protect the Great Artesian Basin through, and use that to stop all mining in Galilee. It’s not just Adani who wants to mine it. Gina’s got her puffy little eyes on it too, and some others as well. Not sure who. My mind is like fly paper. All sorts of things stick to it, but not everything.
      The only way to utterly and finally stop mining in the Galilee Basin is to entrench protection of the Great Artesian Basin in the Constitution, a referendum that would pass with a huge majority. No way to mine without threatening the GAB. Game over.

  • Patrick Comerford

    I wouldn’t put too much store on the Guardian Australia’s Katherine Murphy gotcha question to Bill Shorten, she is part of the Turnbull cheer squad and never misses an opportunity to compare Shorten unfavorably with our “strong leader.” The point is though there is only one party in Australian politics that can reset our disasterous climate change /Renewable energy trajectory under the current RWNJ government and it serves no purpose to float hypotheticals like Adani and what may or may not happen if it does doesn’t go ahead. Anastasia Paluzeck done all that a responsible leader could legally do to prevent Adani getting taxpayer funding from the Turnbull slush fund that is NAÏF and still got criticized. We live in a free country and if corporations want to trash their name and their business that’s up to them but do not put taxpayers on the hook for their folly.

    • Hettie

      K.M. would be in a severe conflict. She is bound to support the Graun’s devotion to action to halt climate change, but she is also Turnbull’s self appointed groupie in chief. Cognitive dissonance, in spades. Poor woman. She should never have been appointed political editor, when she is so blatantly biased.

    • John Saint-Smith

      After a quick scan through KM’s contributions to the Guardian over the last 12 months, I’m yet to find a piece of ‘open Turnbull cheering’. Perhaps you could enlighten us with some evidence?

      • Hettie

        Look harder.

      • Patrick Comerford

        John, perhaps if you would do more than a quick scan then you might be able to enlighten yourself.

        • John Saint-Smith

          A true coward’s answer. I respectfully asked for some evidence, clearly indicating that there was nothing obvious in Murphy’s Guardian pieces over the last twelve months. So I’ve read several dozen articles. Perhaps you can enlighten me or apologise.

  • ChannelSixtyNine69

    The question is this:

    Does Queensland want a mine that will employ 3000 people at best estimate, or the Great Barrier Reef that employs 70000 people?

    They can’t have both. The reef won’t fight the coal industry. It will just die.

    • Hettie

      You are overestimating Adani jobs. Their own sworn testimony in Court said 1464 job years. So given a 30 year life of the mine, that is marginally fewer than 50 jobs for 30 years.

      • ChannelSixtyNine69

        I was deliberately generous, not knowing the correct figure.

        • Hettie

          Not that important. The number 1464 is one I have had cause to quote many times in other places.
          All good. And you are right. The choice is stark. A lying criminal, or the 70,000 jobs that the Reef supports.

      • John Saint-Smith

        Show me where it was stated to be ‘job years’. The actual number of jobs you suggest doesn’t add up, even for a fully automated railway line, let alone a 60 million tonne per year mine, rail and port facility.

        • Hettie

          It’s in the court reports.

    • Joe

      That 3,000 number ? …..Adani themselves admitted in court is only 1200 odd and that is before they get going with automation which will ultimately mean bugger all jobs if in fact job numbers is the yardstick for green lighting The Carmichael Coalmine Abomination. Only a dope would approve Adani’s Abomination and Shorten’s ‘escape hatch’ with his words about commercial and environmental feasibility…..just weasel words. Make the stand and say “No Adani Coalmine”.

      • ChannelSixtyNine69

        Worse than that, the federal ALP wet themselves and allowed Abbott to set the agenda on energy policy.

        • Hettie

          Times have changed. The Qld election was won on A P’s veto of the billion dolla gift ( we all know that Adani would never repay it). It is now safe for Shorten to back away, knowing that the mines will never stack up.

          • Joe

            Shorten isn’t exactly backing away from Adani. He is hedging his bets with this his weasel words of the business case and environmental case ‘stacking up’ as he says.Where does The Reef and Climate Change factor into Shorten’s ‘environmental case’ stacking up? Shorten needs to act like a Leader and call it out….”No Adani Coalmine” and do a Hawke / Franklin Dam…. shut Adani down.

          • Hettie

            Part of me agrees with you. The other part acknowledges that it could be some time before we get our much needed election, and it is prudent for Shorten to keep a low profile on this. Murdoch and his minions will be looking for any and every excuse to put the boot in. Not a bad strategy to present a small target on some issues.

          • Joe

            ‘The Small Target Theory”….hmmmm. I think that Labor put that idea to bed at the last election. They had their policies out well in advance and could debate issues fully. Of course that never stops the Rupert and The Libs from making stuff up like with the recent exposure of Liberal lying over Labor’s Negative Gearing Policy.Treasury contradicted all the Liberal scary talks…just Liberal Lies, Lies and Mooooore Lies which the Rupert happily prints in his newsrags.

          • Hettie

            I did say small target on some issues.
            That’s a very long way from being a policy free Zone as the mad monk was in 2013.
            The object of the exercise is to win the election. With lots of policies that have massive public support, why risk losing some of that support by being unequivocal on issues that are less clear cut.
            For the RE community, Adani, and coal in general, is front and centre. And although “Stop Adani” has a huge following, it’s not the dead set winner that a Federal ICAC and a serious R.C. into all aspects of banking and finance are. That support for the disadvantaged an proper taxation of the wealthy are. That lifting Newstart and pensions, scrapping the outrageous, punitive sanctions against beneficiaries are.
            Same with the Immigration Detention Policy.
            There is plenty of very firm ground for campaigning. Why risk ventures onto very thin ice?

  • howardpatr

    How many in the ALP are climate change deniers and/or scientific ignoramuses, who lack understanding of the renewable energy technologies of the future, are lurking silently in the depths of the ALP.

    Hopefully there aren’t too many old union hacks who might act like Kelly, Joyce, Abbott and have Shorten become like the hypocrite Turnbull has turned out to be; especially when it comes to these issues.

    • Bighead1883

      Now here`s a comment with DiNatle pulse
      Dunno about any ALP climate deniers,but the whole AGW denying Milne Greens Party are and recorded in Hansard forever voting with LNP and Nick Xenophon against Rudds ETS and RET
      https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/9ef98c081a46ecb77f7c640276f279c8a02ef493f269bfa075582cc60cedf4c4.gif

      • Chris Fraser

        Lol. Will the Greens ever live that little episode down ?

        • Hettie

          That proposal of Rudd’s was an absolute dog. 30 year protection for big coal, all sorts of nasties. It would have blocked Julia’s far better carbon price, which but for Rudd’s infantile jealousy would by now have morphed into an ETS that would have worked. And we would never have had the latest 4 years of Coalition destruction.

          • Bighead1883

            So many fables which are all just usual Greens discombobulation
            You lot gave this guy enough preferences to get his seat & ” your” prized CPRS was repealed
            Do come back when you have all the facts
            https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/e0ce8fb5a55ba31e7d710a148442e2644e358f13657193c05a162f042d2f2cba.jpg

          • Ren Stimpy

            Who gives a rat’s about ‘last time’!

            All we care about is ‘next time’, my idiotic slow-minded friend.

          • Ren Stimpy

            Would have set a carbon price in motion, ten friggin’ years ago.

            But don’t worry that it will take another twenty years after that initial one was rejected.

          • Hettie

            We had a carbon price. Emissions were falling. Abbott killed it. Emissions are higher than ever. A change of Government will see a new emissions trading scheme that works. The Gillard carbon price was due to morph into an ETS in 2014. So the plans for it are already in existence.
            The Rudd plan was counter productive. Get over it.

        • stalga

          It came down to Rudd not having the fortitude to embrace an emissions trading scheme. I think we all need to move on from this ten year old blame game.

        • Bighead1883

          Never Chris

        • Ren Stimpy

          Bighead did you happen to upvote your own comment you hopeless dick?

      • Ren Stimpy

        Bulldust Bighead.

        The Senate numbers made what you just said irrelevant.

        Labor + Greens 37 seats. Not enough to do jack shit.
        Liberal/National + Family First 38 seats. Enough to block any legislation.

        http://www.abc.net.au/elections/federal/2007/results/senate/

        Rudd HAD to deal with the Coalition to get an ETS passed. Which means he HAD to snub the Greens and cater the ETS policy to the Coalition’s wants. It was neither Rudd’s fault for dealing with the Coalition, nor the Greens’ fault for rejecting a policy they had absolutely no say in formulating. It was simply a matter of Senate numbers at the time.

        How was anybody to know a bunch of pea-brained opportunists within the Coalition would take control of that party – using this very issue …. and the rest is history.

        The mistake Rudd made was not pulling the trigger for a double dissolution election on the ETS within minutes of Tony Abbott ousting Malcolm Turnbull.

    • Hettie

      Remember , please, Howard, that it’s not the case that the Coalition owns Murdoch. Rather, Murdoch owns the Coalition.
      The Coalition depends on Murdoch to tell its lies, because those are the lies that get it elected.
      The ALP, on the other hand, answers to the unions, which mostly work for the advancement of working Australians. Granted, a few unions limit their activities to helping only those who work directly for those unions, but I believe they are a small minority.
      The ALP and the Greens “do” science and evidence. They both understand the idea that economies are driven from the bottom up, not from the top down. They both know that we have only one planet, that to burn coal is to kill it. That coal is moribund, very nearly dead, and to keep relying on it to be our biggest export is economic as well as environmental suicide. That Australia and specifically the University of New South Wales, is a world leader in solar technology, and that this could be, should be the leader of our export trade.
      The future is the future, not the past. Coal is the past, renewables are the future. The jobs are in renewables.
      And the unions want to support jobs. Which brings my argument full circle.
      The ALP is the child of the Union Movement, its political arm. It does “do” evidence and science.
      There may be some luddites, but not in positions of power.

      • solarguy

        Couldn’t have said it any better myself!

      • Ren Stimpy

        I think Labor needs the sensible and reforming – not to mention sharp and well spoken – Mark Butler as President again. Heck they recovered much of their strength under his previous tenure so why change anything! Not that it’s any of my business, I don’t belong to a political party but I do have a strong interest in the various forms of progress whether it is from one side of politics or the other.

        • Hettie

          ALP and Greens can’t do much from opposition. First they must be elected. They can block attempts to fund Adani by stealth, and it’s essential that they do.

        • Ros Sculac

          I would like to see Mark Butler as Prime Minister.

          • Ren Stimpy

            agree, though I don’t think a South Australian left winger would ever have the numbers.

      • lin

        All true with the exception of the shoppies union, which sold out its members to increase the profits of the big supermarkets, with large numbers of members being its quid pro quo, giving this union a big voice within the ALP which it does not deserve. Arguably Kathy Jackson’s union did some dodgy stuff that sold out its members to increase the bosses profits too. But generally, unions are a big positive for us all.

    • Glynn Palmer

      THE CFMEU is an active loud voice in the labor movement. They will want to perpetuate or increase their power and membership by promoting coal mining.

      • Bighead1883

        Bulldust Glynn,show some citations verifying your outlandish claim

      • Hettie

        The CFMEU must be aware that there are very few, and diminishing jobs in coal mining now. The jobs, far more than the 50×30 years that Adani offers, are in renewables. If the CFMEU is not already aware of that. I have no doubt that the redoubtable Sally McManus will soon set them straight.

        • John Saint-Smith

          I’m not sure the CFMEU is actually looking forward to the saving the GBR, and the rest of the planet, through accelerated closure of all coal mines. If ever there was a case of sitting on the coal fence…
          https://me.cfmeu.org.au/leadership-message/tribute-workers-hazelwood

          Most egregious is the attack on Mal and the COALition for ‘turning their backs on mining and energy communities’. Nobody has supported the coal mining industry lead extermination of mankind more faithfully than the Lazy NEGative Party.

          Nery a word anywhere about supporting ‘construction’ jobs in the wind and solar industry as part of the ‘transition’ to new jobs so that their kiddies can live.

          • Hettie

            Thank you for the link. It is actually arguing for a just transition away from coal, not the abrupt closure and abandonment that happened at Hazelwood.

    • solarguy

      I for one am not any of the above, but I am a party member. I don’t think anyone has to worry about a Bill Shorten government, turning out like the LNP dick heads.

  • Glynn Palmer

    Adani’s latest strategy is to get Aurizon to build and operate the rail connection. I have read that Aurizon has applied to NAIF for a concessional loan. If Aurizon builds and operates the line, it will open up the Galilee Basin to more mines EG. GVK Hancock, Clive Palmer’s Mineralogy/Waratah etc. You can bet that Aurizon is talking to all coal mining proponents in the Galilee to guage feasibility of the project.

    • stalga

      Palazcscuk was coy when asked about the Aurizon bid recently. She wouldn’t rule it out.

      • BushAxe

        Based on their poor track record of previous investments Aurzion will probably build the white elephant.

  • Robin_Harrison

    It’s worth remembering anything any politician says this side of an election can quickly become a non-core promise on the other side. It all depends on who his current owners are. So far it’s not looking promising, he could be making economic mincemeat of his fellow puppets opposite if he wanted.

  • Barri Mundee

    Seems to me Shorten gave quite a credible response to Kathleen Murphy’s question, which was a fair one in my view. Rather than ruling Adani in or out he wisely framed his response in terms of commercial viability and environmental impact.

    • Joe

      Environmental impact = Climate Change and killing The Reef….what more do you need to understand that Adani / Carmichael cannot be allowed. Shorten is weasel wording around the Adani issue.

  • stalga

    The ACF and #STOP ADANI leaders are asking supporters to contact the Labor cabinet and relevant ministers to encourage them to go all the way. Every extra signature or phone call helps. It was pressure that resulted in the NAIF veto, if you have the time, add some more pressure.

  • Carl Raymond S

    Thanks for delivering the important news Giles. I’ve been listening to ABC and yet heard nothing about Shorten embracing renewables. Also good to hear acknowledgement of the ultimate threat to the reef. Earmarked reef fighting funds that do nothing to address carbon emissions are pure window dressing.

  • lin

    Thanks to RE for reporting this. Nice to hear Shorten say this stuff out loud. It would be even better if the midstream media had the integrity to report it honestly.

    • nakedChimp

      ‘midstream media’ is a PR tool for the incumbents. It’s not unbiased.

      • RWD

        Indeed – interesting that here in Adelaide we’ve just made it through two major heatwaves via the combination of our wind turbines, solar, Tesla’s mega-battery, and a bit of gas turbine top up, while Victoria suffered widespread blackouts with their predominantly coal power plants… any commentary on that from the mainstream press on that – NOPE. That would be delivered by a state Labour government, and flies in the face of all the current Liberal rhetoric (helps when our state has run out of coal, so we don’t have a lot of choice but to embrace renewables).

  • Robert Comerford

    Shorten was fence sitting, I felt like throwing something at the screen when he failed to state that coal mines have no place in this world any more. They should make it clear the Adani mine will not go ahead if Labor wins. Show how they intend to see real jobs provided in that area with renewables instead.
    In fact have some guts, come out and state we are not going to f***k the planet for the sake of 1500 jobs.

    • Miles Harding

      Er, that woud be f***ck the planet while f***cking several thousand jobs. Renewables are very good at employing, someting the COALition must ignore to rail against renewables.

      Like the patients in ‘Awakenings’, Adani is only kept alive with it’s L-Dopa injections from the LNP coal trolls. Take these away and it will return to a catatonic state.

  • MaxG

    People please do not forget that is was Labour under Keating who commissioned and supported the Hilmer Report, which lead to the biggest pillage of the public in Australia; in the name of free trade, economic rationalism and neoliberalism. I wish the APL could for once stand up, confess of made an error and to vow no longer to support corporate interests over people.

    • Ren Stimpy

      Though for its time better than nought?

  • Ken Fabian

    Like every other politician that failed to do their homework before pledging support for Adani’s mine, Shorten does not want to admit he made a big blunder. He, like Palaszczuk won’t pull the plug – in the hope that Adani does so first – because doing so themselves is an admission of their own failings.

  • Radbug

    Let’s wait & see if Xi panics & bails out HNA corporation. If he doesn’t print & bail, HNA will pull down the whole PRC “Storm Financial” financial economy. Everyone despises a coward, while a hero lives to fight another day.

  • dono

    Will he Stop Adani? Yes. But Stop Gina – No!