CORRECTED: A new Australian think tank co-founded by former advisors to ex-Liberal minister Julie Bishop and backed by former senior Liberal Party minister Christopher Pyne has called on the federal government to make investment in renewable energy a key focus of the post-Covid recovery.
The LNP-loaded Blueprint Institute, which marked its official launch on Tuesday, describes itself as a “fiercely independent” organisation that seeks to design policy “with a scientific and evidence-based approach.”
The Institute’s “strategic council” combines an array of ex-LNP luminaries such as Pyne, Robert Hill (who negotiated the notorious “Australia clause” when environment minister at the Kyoto climate summit) and Bruce Baird with the likes of ClimateWorks Australia CEO Anna Skarbek and media personality and mathematician Adam Spencer.
It has come out of the blocks this week with the results of a national poll showing that three out of five Australians want the newly formed and now permanent National Cabinet to tackle drought and climate change as top priorities of Australia’s economic recovery plan, post Coronavirus.
The poll, released on Wednesday, found that 88% of Australians (including 79% of Coalition voters) supported investment in renewables rather than fossil fuels, in direct contrast with the Morrison government’s plans to put gas and carbon capture and storage at the centre of its post-Covid recovery plans.
The poll also found that 73 per cent of those surveyed (1000 people) agreed that a strong economy was not important without a healthy environment.
To follow up, the Blueprint Institute plans to release its first two research reports later this month, one of which will address the “once-in-a-generation opportunity” for the National Cabinet to make progress on energy and climate policy.
“The pandemic has highlighted the urgent need for bold new ideas and innovative thinking at all levels of government to ensure Australia has the capability to thrive now and into the future,” said the think tank’s co-founder and CEO Harry Guinness.
“The National Cabinet shows that our leaders are capable of rising to the challenge: we have a once-in-a-generation opportunity to rethink policies that will shape Australia’s future. We believe sound policy puts people first.”
The Institute’s Energy and Environment page on its website laments the inability of Australia’s current policy makers to keep pace with current-day technological capabilities, economic opportunities and environmental realities.
“The failure of politics to have honest conversations and embrace bold visions for Australia’s economic future have produced a decade of factionalism and regressive policy,” it says.
“It is in Australia’s national interest to reduce emissions and build resilience. Yet there are also huge economic opportunities in embracing the transition to clean energy, through development of an onshore battery industry, refining green steel and aluminium, and a renewable energy and hydrogen export sector,” the website says – putting into words what neither LNP nor ALP federal MPs seem prepared to utter aloud at the moment.
“Our goals are threefold: (a) reduced domestic emissions, restoring our land and rivers, protecting the value of biodiversity, (b) reduced energy prices for households and businesses, and (c) seizing Australia’s share of a growing global market for clean technology. Finding policy solutions that balance these factors will require creative thinking.”
Alongside Guinness, who is a former advisor to Julie Bishop, the Institute has been co-founded by Ian Hancock, who is also a founder and director of Clean Energy Strategies, a renewable energy consultancy.
Hancock will co-chair the group alongside Gisele Kapterian, a trained lawyer and former advisor to three Australian federal cabinet ministers including Bishop.
On the board are former Nationals member of the NSW Legislative Council Jenny Gardiner, former Liberal National Queensland MP Lisa France, and the electorate officer of Malcolm Turnbull when he was communications minister, Elizabeth Bold.
CORRECTION: A previous version of this article said that the Blueprint Insititute was backed by former Liberal Party minister, Julie Bishop. Bishop has no formal connection to the think tank.
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