THE GOVERNMENT NEEDS TO GET OVER ITS LOVE AFFAIR WITH COAL

Statement

I thank the member for Capricornia for this excellent opportunity to express my concerns and, indeed, the concerns of my constituents regarding the Adani Carmichael coalmine and this government’s irresponsible attack on renewables in pursuit of its love affair with coal. This government’s fascination with jobs in the present economy does, of course, have its virtues, but, when it considers the public policy question around energy policy and coal, this government approaches the issues with the zealotry and single-mindedness of it being a religious war rather than it being a considered public policy debate trying to search for the best and most economic solutions for our country.

As the contribution from the last speaker exemplifies, for the government this is a zero-sum game. This is good versus evil. This is coal versus evil imitators. This is not a government searching for an evidence based and sensible approach that would best advantage this country. In fact, it amazes me that every time a member of this government seeks to once again praise the future of coal—by bringing into this place, for instance, for a nationwide show-and-tell a lump of coal—they continue to float irresponsible and absurd claims about renewable energies. Every year when we are breaking records when it comes to extreme weather events in Australia and our Pacific neighbours are under immediate threat from rising sea levels—and we know things will continue to get worse until we do something decisive about it—from this government we see, at best, in its most glorious moments, mere inaction, and more often we see nothing less than absolute sabotage, partisan attacks on renewable energy and partisan attacks on measures that are aimed to reduce and tackle climate change.

In relation to Adani, one of the key objections expressed by my constituents is the proposal to use large amounts of government money to prop up that project. Reportedly, the project requires up to $1 billion in federal funds so as to make it a viable project. We know already that 74 per cent of Australians oppose that kind of use of public sector moneys. It is not just controversial, it is ridiculous, that Australian taxpayers should be forking out moneys on that scale to prop up a project when investment in the renewable energy sector is not only good for the environment but it is good for jobs, good for the economy and good for the future economy of this country.

I appreciate the member for Capricornia’s concern for job creation. It should be and is the proper focus for every member of this place and every government. But that is why I find it so hypocritical that this government can continue to shout about jobs and growth while they ensure that Australia misses out on the economic opportunities of the global renewable energy boom. This government’s attack on the renewable energy industry, most recently on display in South Australia, has had dire consequences for jobs and it has stymied the growth of an industry while the rest of the world has been reaping the economic benefits. This year alone, the Turnbull government’s attacks on renewable energy have led to the loss of 2,150 jobs in the renewable sector. This brings the total number of job losses from renewable energy under the Abbott-Turnbull governments to 5,720. That is one in three jobs in this sector that have been lost under the watch of this government. In fact, when it comes to the energy debate, this government are real live job killers. Meanwhile, globally, renewable energy jobs have grown by 45 per cent around the world. Here we are contracting at a time when this industry is starting to take off globally. If we were making the most of this global growth rate, rather than squandering it since 2013, there would be 24,000-plus jobs here in Australia rather than the 11,000 we have present. That is an opportunity cost this government’s policy—this government’s rear-vision mirror image of this industry—is costing us right now.

Ironically enough, in recent days we saw ARENA—an entity that this government has twice tried to abolish—now saddled with the task of undertaking a feasibility study for an expansion of the Snowy River project, a project that the Liberal Party boycotted the opening of many moons ago. This media stunt, these pseudo-events, these partisan, crusader-like attacks on renewable energies are nothing more than an inexplicable ideological obsession that defies evidence based, sensible public policy and is costing us jobs now. It is costing our economy now. It is all well and good to put forward a motion talking about the importance of job creation and energy security, but if you ignore on purely partisan grounds or inexplicable— (Time expired).

20 MARCH 2017.

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