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Matter of public urgency, Labor and Greens devoid of climate change policy, 2 February 2021

Once again it’s clear that the Greens and the Labor Party are not interested in the facts facing Australia and our planet. As we’ve just heard in the contribution from Senator Lines, who did not mention one policy measure we have in place to combat climate change, it’s clear that Labor is operating in an alternative reality. We only have to look at the chaos and the confusion in the Labor Party, as one spokesman is dumped and the deckchairs are rearranged on the faltering ship. We know that Mr Albanese backflipped on his support for the shadow minister Mr Butler in a desperate attempt to save his stumbling leadership, but moving Mr Butler out and putting Mr Bowen in doesn’t change the fact that Labor does not have a single policy which will reduce emissions or lower energy prices. Mr Bowen bragged about being a key architect of Labor’s failed climate policies that it took to the last election and to which they are still clinging. We know that independent economic modelling showed that Labor’s 45 per cent emissions reduction target by 2030 and its 50 per cent renewable energy target would hurt our economy badly and cost tens of thousands of jobs.

The member for Hunter has called them out on this, and of course we still see Labor hopelessly divided. The Nine newspapers reported in November that Mr Fitzgibbon pointed out:
… after 14 years of trying, the Labor Party has made not one contribution to the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions in this country
We see Labor fighting amongst themselves, and we see the member for Corio, Mr Marles. One minute he’s in a coalmine and the next minute he’s saying that the end of thermal coal would be a good thing. He’s flip-flopping all over the place.

While Labor is all at sea, the Morrison government is getting on with doing the heavy lifting required. The Morrison government has a clear and successful emissions reduction policy which has allowed us to meet and beat our 2020 target and will ensure we meet and beat our 2030 target. Wholesale electricity prices have fallen for 16 months in a row, and quarterly prices are at their lowest level in six years. We have also seen a record eight consecutive quarters of year-on-year CPI reductions in retail electricity prices, putting more money in the hip pockets of Australian families and businesses. As Prime Minister Morrison told the National Press Club yesterday, Australia’s economic recovery plan is underpinned by ‘delivering affordable and reliable energy in a way that positions Australia to be successful in the lower and ultimately net zero emissions global economy’ that is a part of our future.

The Prime Minister was quite clear yesterday: our goal is to reach net zero emissions as soon as possible and preferably by 2050. Critical to this outcome are the advances made in science and technology, and these are needed to commercially transform advanced economies and countries along with the developing world. Here in Australia, we will invest and partner in technology breakthroughs. These are needed to reduce and offset emissions so that our heavy industry in particular, and industry more broadly, can continue to grow and protect our jobs and living standards while at the same time keeping energy costs down. As the Prime Minister has made very clear, we will not tax our way to net zero emissions, which would put the cost on Australians in the cities and in our regions. He’s very clear: getting to net zero should be about technology, not taxes and higher electricity prices.

We are getting on with the job—just look at our record. Emissions fell by three per cent in the year to June 2020 to their lowest level since 1998, meaning we are now nearly 17 per cent below 2005 levels. This compares to reductions of approximately nine per cent on average across the OECD, one per cent in New Zealand and less than one per cent in Canada. Labor and the Greens don’t like to hear the truth, but these are the facts.

Under the leadership of Minister Taylor, our $18 billion technology investment road map gets underway this year. There is a $1.9 billion commitment to develop clean energy technologies, such as hydrogen, green steel and carbon capture and storage. We’re pursuing global partnerships with countries including Japan, the United States, the UK, Korea and Singapore. Our multibillion dollar energy and emissions reduction agreement with New South Wales is being implemented, and we hope other states will follow. Agreements are in place to accelerate major transmission projects in New South Wales and Tasmania, with Victoria and South Australia to follow this year. The government is building Snowy 2.0 and we’re rolling out our $200 million program to build new diesel storage facilities. Of course, one of the great recipients of our fuel production payment and our fuel security package is the Geelong Refinery and its 700 workers. I was absolutely delighted to join with Minister Taylor in making an announcement about the bringing forward of the fuel production payment in Geelong in December last year.

The Clean Energy Regulator estimates that a record seven gigawatts of new renewable capacity was installed last year. These are the facts. This is 11 per cent higher than the previous record set in 2019 at 6.3 gigawatts. This represents more than the entire renewable capacity installed under the previous Labor government, which was 5.6 gigawatts from December 2007 to September 2013. These are the facts.

A solar installation boom drove this new record, despite COVID-19 restrictions which impacted rooftop solar installation rates for part of the year. We have a great story to tell here in Australia. One in four Australian homes have solar, which is the highest uptake of household solar in the world. This all helps to reduce household energy bills and reduce emissions. Over the last quarter of 2020, the share of renewables in the National Electricity Market exceeded 30 per cent. In 2020, a record 53.6 terawatt hours of electricity was generated from renewables, including rooftop solar, in the National Electricity Market. This is a whopping 16 per cent higher than the previous record set in 2019.

The bottom line is we are on track to meet and beat our targets: the Kyoto targets by 459 million tonnes along with the 2030 Paris target, which has improved over the last two years by 639 million tonnes. This is the equivalent of removing 14.7 million cars off the road not for one year but for 15 years.

The Morrison government is delivering on emissions reduction while Labor dithers as to how to do it. Labor is fighting internally and Australians have worked out that they have completely lost the plot when it comes to tackling climate action and climate change. Labor doesn’t know what its 2030 target looks like. They don’t know how much it will cost or how it will be achieved. Only the Morrison government will achieve the outcomes that we need and this country needs to reduce our emissions and, at the same, time protect our industries and our jobs. We are taking real and practical action. I’ve talked about, in this contribution, some of the very important results that we are delivering to protect our economy, to protect jobs, to drive record renewable investments and to see one in four Australian homes take up solar, but to do so in a way which takes Australia forward. I am incredibly proud of the work of this government. I am incredibly proud of the leadership of our Prime Minister to drive down emissions and to take strong action on climate change whilst protecting our jobs and our industries.

2 February 2021

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