In this Q&A with the Westender, Federal Member for Griffith, and Shadow Minister for the Environment, Terri Butler MP, talks about COP26 and Labor’s approach to climate action. You can read Ms Butler’s Griffith Electorate at this separate link.
The United Nations COP26 conference has been happening in Glasgow this week. What can we expect from the Morrison Government’s COP26 climate plan?
The federal government is vacating the field when it comes to genuine city’s policy leadership. And at the same time, you’ve also got them almost completely hamstrung on climate change. We’ve seen over such a long period, this government is captured by the climate deniers in its own ranks in the parliament, let alone outside the parliament. You’ve got people like Nationals MP George Christensen and Gerard Rennick a Liberal Party Senator from Queensland, running a campaign to say that the Bureau of Meteorology is somehow engaged in a conspiracy to pretend that climate changes are happening, that somehow there’s a lot of altered data that is part of a conspiracy. Those are the sorts of people who are not just getting the ear of the Prime Minister but who are actually in the party room when decisions are being made.
Then on top of that, of course, you’ve got the people that aren’t necessarily out and out deniers, but in some ways, are worse. Those are the people who only care about the electoral politics of it and don’t want to show leadership and take action on climate change.
So, between those two groups in the coalition, it’s no wonder that Australia is so far behind when it comes to climate action. After getting elected in 2013, one of the first things Tony Abbott did to appease all the climate deniers in his ranks, (and remember, he was someone who said that the science of climate change was crap), one of the first things he does is undermine Renewable Energy Target by commissioning a so called, review of it. The whole purpose of that review was to undermine and reduce the effectiveness of the Renewable Energy Target and it worked – the bottom fell out of investment in renewables in this country as a direct consequence of Tony Abbott’s war on renewables at the time. And now, you’ve got the same government still in place, different person up front, but it’s the same government eight years later, still with all those climate denialists. They’re now starting to see that they have to at least appear to be wanting to take action on climate change.
But as is absolutely typical of Scott Morrison, they’re all about trying to appear to be taking action without actually doing anything. It’s just classic Scott Morrison; make an announcement with no intention of delivering it. We saw that this week, when he announced a Climate Change plan that he says is just our existing policy, nothing new to add. And he wants to take that to the world stage. The Australian way of dealing with climate change is doing nothing and hope for the best. Other nations might be forgiven for wondering why that’s all we have to say.
How do you think Mr Morrison is going to be received in Glasgow?
I think that probably remains to be seen. What really matters is what he can get done here. The world stage is important, we should be showing leadership. But at the end of the day, what can we control? We can control what Australia’s disposition towards climate action is. You’ve got the bloke up the front, who at the last election was saying that our [Labor’s] policies on electric vehicles would end the weekend. You’ve got their Minister for resources, ridiculing solar panels in question time – you know, this whole thing about how solar panels don’t work in the dark as if you’d never heard of battery storage.
You’ve got the member for Mallee showing up on the news saying that wind farms don’t work at night.
Of course, climate change is the world’s climate crisis – we’re all affected by climate change, we all have to live on the one planet. Failure to act on climate change, as well as being a failure to take action on the world’s climate crisis, squanders an opportunity at home to create jobs, in relation to taking action on climate change; whether that’s jobs in renewables, jobs in manufacturing, whatever the case might be. If we don’t take advantage of the fact that the world’s climate crisis is Australia’s jobs opportunity, that will be an immediately felt loss for a lot of people here. I think everyone in the whole country knows that except for apparently, Scott Morrison, and I think that’s a real shame.
On QandA recently a mayor [Cr Anne Baker] from Northern Queensland, accused both parties of making promises that there will be jobs, but without a practical plan. What is Labor going to do that’s different to the Coalition, in terms of demonstrating that there’s going to be some practical solutions?
I reckon Mayor Baker is saying exactly what people need to hear, which is, it’s not enough just to say trust us, there’ll be jobs. We actually need to demonstrate the value of jobs, demonstrate the fact that there are real jobs, well paid jobs, secure jobs, that can be created through taking action on climate change.
Mayor Baker is an excellent person, she runs a great council, and she wants to know what the future for her region is. I think that’s absolutely right. And so, from our perspective, we’re saying it is about the proof of the pudding being in the tasting – we’re actually going to stump up. That’s why we’ve got policies like creating new energy apprenticeships for jobs that can then be used in the renewable energy industries. It’s also why we’re talking about, not just the jobs that you can create from climate action, but at the same time restoring job security in this country, through policies like “Same job, Same pay”, through our secure Australian jobs plan. Because at the end of the day, if people are expected to just take on faith that jobs in the future will have the same security and conditions as jobs in current industries, and jobs in emerging industries, that’s not going to be good enough, you actually need to put the assurance in place that says your family will be safe, your employment will be safe, you’re going to have a bright future. And so, between taking policies that will help create training and security, we can demonstrate to people that this is real. And most importantly, our policy around Rewiring the Nation, or the National Reconstruction Fund, are about improving infrastructure for Australia, whether that’s transport infrastructure, electricity infrastructure, or the kind of community infrastructure that we need, and at the same time, create jobs.
Rewiring the Nation
Labor’s Rewiring the Nation policy is all about modernising the electricity grid. The grid was built when It was all one way – generators delivering electricity into households. But of course, with household solar and renewables, we also want to be able to export energy in a much better way back into the grid. To make that possible and to increase the uptake of renewables in our community and our economy, we need to modernise the electricity grid.
That is a massive policy commitment that will make us a better nation because it will create jobs, it’ll make renewables a much bigger part of our energy mix, and it’ll also drive down energy prices, which will also create jobs in manufacturing, in business, and across the private sector where the biggest input costs for a lot of firms, is energy – particularly for manufacturing. If we can increase uptake of renewables, drive down energy costs, create jobs, that will also have a flow on effect of creating more jobs here in those other sectors as well. So, this is a sort of policy demonstration that you can do, to show, not just tell, the creation of jobs that you can have if you take action on climate change
National Reconstruction Fund Policy
At the same time, our National Reconstruction Fund Policy is also about making sure that we create opportunities here.
In my electorate, we have Tritium, which manufactures electric vehicle charging stations and exports them around the world. It is one of the biggest exporters of charging stations in the world. They have just listed on the NASDAQ. They’re an Aussie success story that’s a renewable energy powerhouse for the world. And they are a demonstration of the jobs that can be created in the new economy. There are real jobs, they’ve got skilled and semi-skilled jobs, they recruit locally, and they’re based right here in my electorate in Brisbane.
They’re also a demonstration of the sort of the consequences of the Abbott and Co policy vacuum that was created as a consequence of the attacks on Electric Vehicles (EV) – the consequence of the eight years of coalition inaction on climate change. Because while they are one of the biggest exporters in the world of electric vehicle charging stations, they don’t really have much of a market here in Australia, because the EV uptake has been so low because of the policy vacuousness, not just vacuum from the Coalition.
We lost our motor vehicle manufacturing industry. Do you think it can be revived?
I think manufacturing can be brought back to Australia; I think we can once again have manufacturing on Australian soil. I think that we should be a country that makes things. There’s a lot of capacity for advanced manufacturing, for making the components for renewable energy for electric vehicles. I think there’s a lot of capacity for pharmaceuticals and health supplements. I think there’s probably now an emerging capacity for manufacturing health equipment. There are so many opportunities. If we just have a government that instead of daring firms to leave Australia, actually invest in manufacturing; if we have a government that has the right conditions to create more investment opportunities for advanced manufacturing in Australia. And if we have a government that actually sees the value of jobs, and the value of communities, then we absolutely can have manufacturing in Australia.
If we have a government that takes action to drag in the price of energy while increasing the mix of renewables in the energy system in Australia, then of course, we can improve the amount of manufacturing on Australian soil.
We absolutely can be better at manufacturing as a country. But instead, we’ve got this government that is too lazy; that sits on its hands, that actually dared Holden to leave Australia. I think the contrast is absolutely clear, it’s black and white. People want manufacturing in Australia, and they can’t continue to have this Morrison/Joyce government that is not willing to do what needs to be done.
People often accuse Labor of being halfway in and halfway out with coal. They feel that they don’t really understand Labor’s position on new coal mines, as opposed to new power stations. What is Labor’s position?
If we want action on climate change in this country, we have to have a social license for it. Only Labor understands that governments should work with markets to reduce emissions, and to create jobs and national wealth, because the world’s climate emergency is Australia’s jobs opportunity.
That’s why Labor has plans to make Australia a renewable energy superpower.
The market has made clear it won’t build another coal-fired power station in Australia. The Morrison-Joyce Government wants to use public money to invest in old technology – because they don’t care about climate change, or higher power prices for consumers. As Labor’s Climate and Energy Shadow Minister Chris Bowen has said, for the Morrison-Joyce Government to even contemplate investing in a new coal-fired power station when the market wont in Australia, is recklessness.
75 per cent of Australia’s coal is exported. Much of Queensland’s coal exports are steel making metallurgical coal, as opposed to thermal coal for energy. Australia’s major trading partners will determine how long they have demand for Australia’s coal.
If we want action on climate change, we have to genuinely persuade and bring people with us and not tell them that we know better than them, and not run a convoy into the middle of their town and tell them how wrong they are. All you need to do is take a look at that convoy into Central Queensland during the last federal election, and the massive swing that the National Party got as a consequence. That sort of action, that sort of attack on people’s livelihoods and attack on people’s industries, sets climate action back every single time. It helped Scott Morrison. It just makes it even harder to get climate action than it already is. It’s in such an uphill battle.
I always think back to our federal election, a lot of people just banked a Labor winning. I’m not talking about people in the caucus, I’m talking about people in the community, who said, ‘why doesn’t Labor in government do X, Y, and Z?” And I was saying, we’re not in government, and we may not be in government after the election. We’ve actually got to form government, we’ve got to win in the community, and hold the seats, and win a swag more seats. If we want to be able to do anything, that is the precondition – hold your seats, win more, and to do that you’ve got to bring the Australian people with you. And that’s how you get action on climate change.
There is only one path to real action on climate change in this country and that is electing an Albanese Labor government.
You can read a Griffith Electorate update from Ms Butler here.