Victoria’s Labor Party has been returned to power, after a state poll that delivered a crushing defeat to the Liberal-National Coalition, and a clear endorsement of strong policies on climate change and renewable energy.
The stunning victory is expected to give the Labor Andrews government about 55 seats – and possibly as many as 58 – in the state’s 88-seat Lower House, as electorates considered to be safely Liberal swung to Labor, and marginal seats morphed into Labor strongholds.
Labor, led by Daniel Andrews, conducted a campaign peppered with policies to make clean energy technologies like rooftop solar and storage cheaper and more accessible for consumers, and to replace the state’s remaining coal-fired power plant with big solar, wind and batteries.
The party has also set a target for net zero emissions for Victoria by 2050, which it did in response to the 2015 Independent Review of the Climate Change Act 2010, most of which was accepted by the Andrews government.
The victory means that the state’s recently launched solar homes scheme – which offers a half-price rebate on small-scale PV installations – will be expanded to offer interest free loans, and to include half-price battery storage and access to rooftop solar for renters.
The Andrews government has pushed hard on large-scale renewables in the state, too, with its first renewable energy auction – Australia’s largest – delivering 928MW of capacity via six new wind and solar farms.
In a speech after the result had been called, Andrews said Victorians had “rejected the low road of fear and division” that he said had shaped the Coalition’s election campaign.
“This is the most progressive state in our nation. Victorians are smart. Victorians have big hearts,” he told the ABC’s Insiders program on Sunday morning.
“Victorians, I think, are a lot more generous and a lot smarter than our opponents thought they were.
“They want big, broad, bold politics. Not this narrow, nasty stuff that was on offer, and it was rejected comprehensively yesterday.”
But the Matthew Guy-led Coalition campaign was just as notable for what was not on offer, including any semblance of a plan for climate action or to drive investment in renewable energy in the state.
While Labor, in the 11th hour of its campaign, pledged to boost its legislated renewable energy target to 50 per cent by 2030 if re-elected, Guy’s Coalition was promising to scrap the VRET and – like its federal counterpart – focus instead on lowering electricity prices.
To do this the party unveiled plans to extend the life of existing coal generators and underwrite the construction of a new 500MW power plant, to create a new source of “24/7” electricity for the state.
As we wrote at the time, the bizarre policy, unveiled less than two weeks before the poll, appeared to be aping the equally bizarre policy of the federal Coalition, which seeks to underwrite new “base-load” coal power, even though no major energy institution thinks that this is a good idea.
— Nicholas Aberle (@NickAberle) November 25, 2018
Meanwhile, the federal Coalition is busily reassuring itself that this was a state election, fought on state issues.
But for senior members of the party like former energy minister and current federal treasurer Josh Frydenberg, the huge swing against the Coalition in the heart of his very own inner Melbourne “leafy green” electorate must draw uncomfortable comparisons with Wentworth in NSW.
That’s twice in 12 months the Liberals have fought an election attacking Labor’s renewable energy policies and promising to build new coal stations – and lost! Time for Scott Morrison to junk the hard-right rubbish on climate and energy.
— Mark Butler MP (@Mark_Butler_MP) November 25, 2018
“If the message of the Wentworth by-election wasn’t clear enough, the Liberal Party have been given another reminder,” said Greenpeace Australia Pacific campaigner Alix Foster Vander Elst.
“Australians are sick of the climate denial and scare-mongering. They want action on climate change and an energy system dominated by renewables and they will vote for parties who can deliver them.”
Libs losing Brighton and Hawthorn, this is unthinkable, and so was Wentworth. These seats have people who may not like unions but they respect science & education. Coalition must distance itself from the religious right & their crazy rejection of science especially on climate.
— Tristan Edis (@TristanEdis) November 24, 2018
Environment Victoria CEO Mark Wakeham said the result made clear that ignoring climate change and undermining renewable energy was “electoral poison.”
“For many voters this election was a referendum on renewable energy,” he said in comments on Saturday night.
“Matthew Guy’s Liberal Party went to the polls with no plan for climate action and a plan to destroy the state’s renewable energy industry. It has cost them the election.”
Sophie is editor of OneStepOffTheGrid.com.au and deputy editor of its sister site, RenewEconomy.com.au. Sophie has been writing about clean energy for more than a decade.