Morrison willingly turning blind eye to clean energy, Labor says

Albanese Labor presser at Henson Park
Federal Labor leader Anthony Albanese in Sydney. Credit: AAP/Bianca De Marchi

The federal opposition has ramped-up pressure on the Morrison government to get behind an economic recovery that embraces clean energy, calling on the government to abandon its push for a ‘gas-led’ recovery, saying it would lead to fewer new jobs.

Speaking to the Smart Energy Council’s virtual Conference and Exhibition on Wednesday, Labor climate and energy spokesperson Mark Butler said that the Morrison government’s reluctance to embrace the clean energy sector and increase its ambition on climate change was out of step with the wider community.

“Obviously, there is still significant cause for pessimism because in spite of the extraordinary level of consensus in the community, in the business sector and among regulators, lenders and investors, there is still a great degree of reluctance among members of the Commonwealth Government,” Butler told the Smart Energy Council event.

“They’re still resisting a commitment to net zero emissions in spite of the fact that every state government Liberal and Labor alike is signed up to it. Resisting any post-2030 commitment.”

“We’ve also seen some pretty dodgy modelling, in the leak of some weird looking bubble graphs from a Technology Roadmap yesterday, which again, seek to put the finger on the scale to promote gas industry investments over clean energy investments.”

“And we know that that’s just self-defeating. Investors aren’t going to fall for that. So if it’s going to happen, it’s going to happen on the taxpayer dollar, and it’s all going also going to lead to far fewer jobs that are clean energy led,” Butler added.

Butler pointed to a number of assessments that have concluded that more jobs could be created through policies that target government support and investment into the clean energy sector, compared to the number of jobs that could be created by fossil fuel industries.

A recent assessment published by Beyond Zero Emissions detailed how up to one million jobs could be created through investments in zero emissions technologies, and that these opportunities could create as many as three times as many jobs compared to the same level of investment in the fossil fuel industry.

Butler’s comments were echoed by his federal leader, Anthony Albanese, who while speaking at a separate event lamented that the Morrison government was proving to be willingly “blind” to the clean energy opportunities on offer.

“I said before, our nation’s long-term future lies in renewable energy sources,” Albanese said at an event in Coffs Harbour on Wednesday.

“In coming decades, we must position our nation to be a major player in the clean energy industries that continue to grow in importance over time.”

“Indeed, if we get the policies right, we can transform our nation into a renewable energy superpower. There are also opportunities in bio-energy, where bio-mass generation and waste-to-energy continues to evolve. Similarly, renewable hydrogen is a future potential export sector.”

Giving the latest in a series of ‘vision statements’, federal Labor leader Anthony Albanese called out the Morrison government for ignoring the opportunities on offer through investments in renewable energy projects, that could create jobs in regional areas and drive a post-Covid-19 economy recovery.

“The Morrison Government appears to be blind to such opportunities. Our Prime Minister has no energy policy,” Albanese said. “He is impotent in the face of a rump of conservative hard liners so stridently opposed to action on climate change that they ignore the opportunities it offers their own communities.”

“They ignore the jobs on offer and the community is losing patience.”

“While the Government demonises solar energy, elsewhere the debate is moving on. When it comes to energy and resources policy, the community and the investment sector is moving beyond this do-nothing Government,” Albanese added.

The comments were welcomed by Greenpeace Australia Pacific’s Martin Zavan, who said that the Morrison government was putting ideology ahead of economics and that renewable energy technologies presented strong investment opportunities and low-cost energy, while also helping to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

“The economics favour renewables, which are not only the cheapest form of new-built electricity generation but can already produce electricity at a lower cost than existing coal-burning power stations,” Greenpeace Australia Pacific communications campaigner, Martin Zavan said.

“If economics rather than ideology come to guide the Coalition’s climate and energy policy, Australia can still take its rightful place as a world leader in clean energy. But right now we are in the ludicrous situation where Angus Taylor is trying to change laws so he can gift even more public money to coal and gas companies, with no obligation for them to provide anything in return.”

Michael Mazengarb is a climate and energy policy analyst with more than 15 years of professional experience, including as a contributor to Renew Economy. He writes at Tempests and Terawatts.

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