Climate Change policy - Matter of Public Importance Speech

Wednesday 28 November

I rise to also contribute to this matter of public importance. In doing so, I will say at the outset that I agree with Senator Storer that meaningful action on climate change is well overdue and Australia should be playing its part as a wealthy nation in the region to limit our pollution and reduce greenhouse gases. Our country—and indeed the world—is undergoing a period of rapid destruction in the energy sector. But, through innovation, scale and our need to respond to climate change, renewable energy is becoming the future of that energy mix, and rightly so. This year, 2018, has been a record year for rooftop solar installations as well as large-scale solar and wind developments. But it's vital that we have the energy policy that reflects and anticipates these market developments, our environmental obligations and the need for a transition plan from fossil fuels to renewable energy. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change exclaimed recently: 'Climate change is no longer an emergency; it is a disaster.'

On that front, I would like to take this opportunity to outline the Morrison government's renewable energy target. Excuse the silence, but there is no policy. That, there in itself, weighs up exactly what we are dealing with in this country: a Morrison government that does not have an energy or a climate policy, a government that is missing in action. Electricity prices have increased by nearly 19 per cent in the past three years—three times as fast as wages growth. The government have blamed blackouts on wind farms, and they've treated coal as though it's some sort of panacea. In fact, the just-released 2018 United Nations Environment emissions gap report makes clear that the government has no interest in climate change as there has been no improvement in Australia's climate policy. On current projections, applying the government's policy—well, lack of policy—by 2030 we will be well above the Nationally Determined Contributions target under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. Under Morrison's hopeless climate change policies, carbon pollution will continue to rise all the way to 2030, which is as far as the projections currently go. It is for those reasons that moderate Liberals are now speaking out against the government's continued kowtowing to the hard-right wreckers of their party room that have dictated action on climate change and energy for so long.

As Bill Shorten aptly observed last week, the single most important thing about energy and climate right now is to actually have some sort of policy. Well, Labor does have a very comprehensive policy. Labor's energy plan, announced last week, addresses comprehensively the energy market as a whole. It delivers predictability, investor confidence, more renewables, cheaper power and more jobs. We're committed to ensuring that there's a just transition for workers in existing generation facilities that will be eventually phased out, notably coal, and for affected communities. We'll ensure households can reduce both their power bills and their carbon footprint, notably by making battery storage more affordable and improving efficiency. And we'll promote the modernisation of our energy infrastructure—in particular, by investing some $5 billion in a new energy security and modernisation fund and by doubling the original investment in the Clean Energy Finance Corporation.

But we also realise that energy policy should not be this partisan. Our preference is to achieve some sort of bipartisan agreement, and it always has been. So we'll continue to pursue the National Energy Guarantee, which can deliver our 50 per cent renewable energy target by 2030. It's clear that some on the other side want to move forward in this direction. The member for Curtin has called on her colleagues to 'consider energy policy through the prism of securing bipartisan agreement with Labor', which 'must and has to be balanced with concerns for our environment and preservation of our planet'. But even the former Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull, recently said that the Liberal Party and the coalition are not capable of dealing with climate change. Australians deserve a government that will take action on climate change, reduce pollution and invest in our renewables. Australia deserves better, and Labor is ready to be that.