Mark Butler MP

In removing their renewable energy target, the coalition exposes their ignorance

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This week, the Coalition announced that they will not be pursuing a renewable energy target beyond 2020. This flies in the face of both logic and the realities we face.

 

 

On Tuesday during Parliamentary Question Time, new Energy Minister, Angus Taylor, announced: “the (RET) target reaches a peak in 2020 and we will not be replacing that with anything.”

This is no surprise coming from the anti-renewables, anti-climate science minister who, in his first speech as the minister in charge of energy, said he would not “even try” to end the investor uncertainty which lies at the heart of the country’s energy crisis.

The Minister has absolved himself of any responsibility to reach a bipartisan framework on energy policy.

His insistence that energy policy should ignore the need to transition to clean energy, and that government has no role in supporting investor certainty, flies in the face of every report delivered to the Government over recent years – including from the Chief Scientist, Alan Finkel.

This is on the back of a Financial Review oped by Mr Taylor, also published on Tuesday, where he claimed that “emissions reductions are the least of our problems.”

Let’s not forget Mr Taylor is an anti-wind energy campaigner, joining Alan Jones as the poster boy for the “national wind power fraud rally”, and his 2014 speech in Parliament, which said climate change “has little basis on fact and everything to do with blind faith.”

Australians and the energy industry should be rightly outraged by Mr Taylor absolving himself from any responsibility to deliver climate and energy policy. It’s actually his job.

It’s no wonder Oliver Yates, a Victorian Liberal Party veteran and former head of the Federal Government’s Clean Energy Finance Corporation, has called Mr Taylor’s stance “economically irrational” and “mad”, while former Liberal Leader John Hewson has said it is a “a big failing”.

The peak organisation for the energy industry, the Australian Energy Council, has also reiterated the importance of government implementing an energy policy that recognises the need to decarbonise our energy system and provide investment certainty for industry, with AEC Chief Executive Sarah McNamara saying: “a lack of robust or bipartisan energy policy means there is a lack of investment confidence, which means there is more risk to be managed, and this in turn leads to higher prices.”

But even in the face of pleading from industry and experts alike, Mr Taylor will continue to deny basic obvious facts.

The “Minister for lowering power prices” refuses to acknowledge or address why power prices are as high as they are in the first place.

This is a disaster for Australian households and business that have been struggling under skyrocketing power prices because of the Liberals’ energy and climate policy paralysis.

Labor understands it is the role of government to support investment, especially in an essential public service like power. We understand that bipartisan policy is the best way to deliver that certainty, but we also understand that is impossible as long as the Liberal party is dominated by those who see renewable energy as a threat to be stopped rather than an inevitable and welcome future.

Energy policy has become so beholden to the hard-right in the Liberal party that Australia’s Energy Minister’s views on the economics and engineering of renewable energy fly directly in the face of all expert and industry advice – including the Government’s own Energy Security Board, who have said: “The cost of running a clean-coal plant is much more expensive that running a combination of wind, solar and gas, or, better yet, wind, solar and pumped hydro.”

Since the 2016 election Labor has been committed to our targets that will bring down power prices and pollution while we manage the transition of our energy sector.

Report after report validates our targets of 50% renewable energy, 45% emissions reduction by 2030 (on 2005 levels) and net zero emissions by 2050.

The latest Frontier Economics research, commissioned by ACOSS, shows with Labor’s 45% emissions reduction target driving investment in renewables, average power bills will fall by an average of 18.3% by 2030.

And recent Reputex modelling shows wholesale power prices by 2030 will be 25% higher without a 45% target.

Mr Taylor and his Government might not accept a modern, low pollution, renewable energy future, but Labor, industry and the Australian community do. And it will be those who support a managed and just transition to the future who will be on the right side of history, not those who fight against the inevitable.

 

Mark Butler MP

Mark Butler has been the Labor Member for Port Adelaide in the federal parliament since 2007 and is the Shadow Minister for Climate Change and Energy. Mark served as Minister for Ageing and Australia’s first Minister for Mental Health in the Gillard Government. He has also held the ministries of Housing, Homelessness, Social Inclusion, Climate Change, Water and the Environment. In 2013 Mark was awarded the Alzheimer’s disease International Award for Outstanding Global Contribution to the Fight against Dementia. He was elected as National President of the ALP in 2015. Mark is the author of Advanced Australia - The Politics of Ageing, published in 2015; and Climate Wars, published in 2017.

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