Federal Labor has pitched a plan for a clean energy “jobs revolution”, just a day after prime minister Scott Morrison delivered a divisive speech on his government’s approach to climate policy.
Speaking to a Labor organised Clean Energy and Jobs summit, which sought to engage directly with unions, industry and business communities, Labor leader Anthony Albanese pitched an economy-wide ‘jobs revolution’ that could be achieved through increased investments in clean energy and lower emissions technologies.
In an almost direct response to Scott Morrison’s declaration that “we will not achieve net zero in inner-city cafes” made in a speech to the Business Council on Monday night, Albanese said the opportunities being created through action on climate change would have a wide-reaching benefit for the Australian economy.
“It is time to look at the other side of the coin – the huge potential for clean energy to create hundreds of thousands of secure, well-paid jobs right across this country,” Albanese said.
“I am not just talking about jobs for scientists or engineers developing new clean energy technologies. I’m not just talking about jobs for people mining lithium, copper and nickel or those who will transform those materials into batteries.
“I’m talking about a revolution in jobs growth right across the Australian economy based on one inescapable fact – renewable energy is not only clean, but cheap. And getting cheaper,” Albanese added.
Albanese told the summit that a future Labor government would use a $15 billion National Reconstruction Fund, an idea recently floated by the opposition leader, to fund an expansion of Australia’s manufacturing and export industries into the supply of materials for clean energy products.
“Our ambition is nothing less than a revival of manufacturing built off the back of the availability of clean, cheap electricity,” Albanese said. “As a simple example, our nation already produces and exports lithium, copper and nickel, which are critical commodities for the development of battery storage and electric vehicles.”
“My vision is for Australia to look beyond bulk exports and continue to develop our own capacity to make batteries and electric vehicle components for export to the world.”
With an updated climate and energy policy platform, federal Labor has sought to walk a fine line between embracing wide-scale decarbonisation of the Australian economy while stopping short of supporting a call for moratoriums against expanding the fossil fuel industry. Labor has committed to a zero net emissions target while arguing that coal and gas will continue to play a role in the energy mix for the foreseeable future.
Also speaking to the jobs summit, Labor shadow minister for climate change and energy, Chris Bowen, sought to paint the Morrison government as failing to deliver on the wide range of policies that have been floated by the Coalition since winning government in 2013.
“Scott Morrison is playing word games instead of making this most basic commitment – net-zero by 2050, leaving Australia a global laggard amongst 70 per cent of our trading partners and 120 countries,” Bowen said.
“They’ve had 22 energy policies in eight years – that uncertainty terrifies investors and is a big risk to jobs now and into the future. They promised a long-term emissions reduction strategy two years ago – it’s stuck in the black hole of undelivered promises by Scott Morrison.”
Bowen has previously unveiled federal Labor commitments to lower the purchase price of electric vehicles, invest in distributed community batteries and a $20 billion commitment to a Rewiring the Nation fund to build new network infrastructure. Bowen flagged that further policy commitments from the party will be forthcoming ahead of the next federal election.
“Labor will invest in traditional industries and the regions through our National Reconstruction Fund and Rewiring the Nation,” Bowen said.
“We’re going to make electric cars cheaper for families – and cut household bills and emissions with community batteries. These are some of our first steps to grow jobs, cut bills and cut emissions – but they won’t be our last.”
On Monday night, Morrison used a speech to the Business Council of Australia to again express his ‘preference’ for achieving a net-zero emissions target but again fell short of formally committing Australia to such a target.
The speech offered no new policy commitments from the Morrison government but instead worked to pit metropolitan voters against the rest of the country.
“We’re not going to achieve net zero in the cafes, dinner parties and wine bars of our inner cities. It will not be achieved by taxing our industries that provide livelihoods for millions of Australians off the planet, as our political opponents sought to do when they were given the chance,” Morrison said. “It will be achieved by the pioneering entrepreneurialism and innovation of Australia’s industrial workhorses, farmers and scientists.”
Later this week, Morrison will address a climate leadership summit being convened by US president Joe Biden – an invitation secured by virtue of Australia’s ranking as a major global emitter of greenhouse gases.
Morrison has so far resisted committing Australia to stronger emissions reduction targets, and the absence of any new commitment in his speech on Monday night suggests that none will be forthcoming at the Biden hosted summit.