Climate of the Nation Report Launch

13 October 2021

Climate of the Nation Report Launch

I’m joining you from the lands of the Cabrogal People of the Darug Nation.  I pay my respects to their elders, past present and emerging.

I’d like to thank the Australia Institute for inviting me to launch the Climate of the Nation Report today.

And this report, the longest continuous survey of community attitudes to climate change in the country, has been a key part of measuring changing community attitudes but also informing advocates of change of the arguments which are finding support in the community.

There are new and very important records across this poll – and I’ll get to those.

But the most important thing this report confirms for me, is that Australians know the way forward and want to seize it.

They want a Government without a bizarre fascination and determination to hold Australia and Australians back from embracing the opportunities of the transition to a renewable economy. And they want a Government which sets a sustainable and supportive framework to get on with it.

This Report has also affirmed yet again, how far out of touch the Morrison-Joyce Government is with the Australian people, and with the people in rural and regional Australia, who pay a massive price for climate change, and who can be significant beneficiaries of well- designed policies to tackle climate change


So, back to those records;

Three in four Australians are concerned about climate change, the highest level since this survey began a decade ago.

They’re concerned about the impacts that we’ve seen in recent years – intensifying bushfires, droughts and floods.

And they actually want to do something about it.

Seven in ten are considering the switch to electric for their cars and their homes, but the lack of policy framework or incentives from Government is a consistent barrier.

And happily, despite Government continuously engaging in the toxic identity politics of dividing rural and urban Australians, this poll shows regional Australians stand united with their compatriots in the cities in their want for climate action.

This is the great lie of this Government. Scott Morrison sneers about inner city wine bars, but Australians from all over country know that acting on climate change is both an environmental imperative and an economic opportunity

The top location for roof top solar uptake in NSW isn’t Double Bay, it’s Dubbo.

In Sydney, its not Mosman, its Marsden Park.  

In Queensland, not Brisbane, it’s Bundaberg.

            But we know, despite these heartening results, we have a long way to go.

            We can’t rest on our laurels.

Despite the Government’s disarray and dysfunction right now, they will unite before an election on the one thing they can all agree on: the need for a dishonest scare campaign on climate.

And they’ll be aided and abetted by their preference buddy and campaign financier, Palmer the Pest.

            So, we must relentlessly, and with laser like focus, prosecute the case: the world’s

            climate emergency is Australia’s jobs opportunity.

Our opponents have never seen a scare campaign or dishonest representation they didn’t love.

We all know about the $100 roast, Whyalla being wiped out and the death of the weekend.

But they also never miss an opportunity to use a current event through twisted logic, to argue against transitioning to renewables.

Almost any development will be used to argue for delaying the transition to a renewable economy.

When the coal-fired power station was shut due to an explosion, Matt Canavan found a way to argue that this was a reason for more coal-fired power.  He even heroically managed to claim this was a “real test for Labor”.

When Texas suffered a catastrophic energy failure in the midst of a deep freeze, wind energy was blamed, despite an independent inquiry finding that poor maintenance of gas fired power stations was the main cause.

And of course, as Europe has been engulfed by an energy crisis, caused in no small part by spiralling gas prices, the usual suspects have alleged this is all due to Europe’s commitment to net zero emissions by 2050.

And as certain Liberals fall over themselves to convince their electorates that they really are different to those other climate change denying Liberals and Nationals, remember that the alleged “modern Liberals” have engaged in this dishonest scare mongering with alacrity.

Josh Frydenberg has led the sophistry on the economic costs of action on climate change.  Dave Sharma participated in the denigration of electric vehicles.

Tim Wilson, the new appointee to the portfolio, is the same guy who campaigned for

Australia to, and I quote, ‘recognise reality’ and leave Kyoto, and scaremongered that 45% medium term reductions would be economy-wrecking.

Not only do these alleged “modern Liberals” have exactly the same voting record as Barnaby Joyce,  George Christensen and Matt Canavan, they have happily engaged in the demonisation of renewable energy when it suited them. 

But slogans and scaremongering has long been the currency of choice for this Government, led by the best of them all, Morrison.

He too has had a five minutes to midnight conversion to at least a nod to climate action as it has become more fashionable.

He appears to change his tune on the most important policy challenge of our time as quickly and easily as he changes football teams.

Now, none of this predictable politicking by our political opponents means we reduce our level of ambition.

But it does mean that we must relentlessly prosecute the case that action on climate change is not only an international obligation.

It is also an imperative for our national economic interest.

As our opponents run scare campaigns about the economic cost of climate action, we must point out that good climate policy actually

  • Creates jobs and
  • Cuts power bills.

The world’s climate emergency is Australia’s jobs opportunity

And this is particularly the case in Australia’s regions.

The regions which have powered Australia so long will keep powering us in a renewable economy.           

Case in point:

  • the billion dollar hydrogen manufacturing facility in Gladstone announced just this week,
  • and the jobs-rich offshore wind sector which will provide thousands of jobs off the traditional energy hubs of the La Trobe Valley, the Hunter and Central Queensland and
  • Minerals and metals industries feeding demand for lithium, zinc, nickel and copper, green steel and aluminum in a decarbonizing global economy.

The international politics of climate can sometimes get a little esoteric and feel detached from people’s lives

Now to be clear - anything less than committing to net zero emissions by 2050, legislating that commitment, and significantly improving our medium term targets is a cop out that sells the Australian economy short.

So I will continue to highlight that.

But when you’re busy getting food on the table, making sure the kids are doing their homework, or trying to pay off a mortgage with stagnant wages, COP26 is probably not what’s keeping you up at night.

Again, we must bring the arguments in favour of climate action back to why its in the best interests of Australians.

Those keen on perpetuating a kind of culture or identity war about climate paint it as a rich person’s hobby.

But it’s your Daryl Kerrigan’s, not your Chris Hemsworth’s that stand to benefit the most from lower energy bills thanks to renewables, electric vehicles, and energy efficiency.

The top 10% of income earners spend just 4% on energy costs.

Its more than double that, over 10%, for the bottom 10% of income earners.

Western Sydney, home to 2.5 million people (myself included) has been copping the impact of increased heatwaves over summer.

Up to 100% more energy is used to cool households in the west than in the east.

So, Morrison and Joyce’s furphy that climate and energy only interests the wealthy inner-city is not just a dishonest ploy to justify inaction

It’s another way everyday Australians have been neglected.

In fact, betrayed.

Electric vehicles are one of those technologies where they’ve gone beyond the do-nothing category, into the actively undermine, to the detriment of Australian households and businesses.

Low emissions vehicles like battery electric, plug-in hybrid and fuel cell save households and businesses thousands in running costs.

So, while Morrison was falsely bleating about people having no choice in what car they drive, and EV’s being the plaything of the rich and famous.

It was in fact his policy vacuum reducing choice and increasing costs for Australian households. 

Less than 1% of new car sales in Australia are electric, compared with 15% last month in the UK, and over 70% in Norway.

And Australian families and businesses are missing out on the massive ongoing savings of electric vehicles.

Your average EV is about 70% cheaper to run than its petrol equivalent.

That surges to over 90% if it’s powered off rooftop solar.

But thanks to the openly hostile policy environment towards electric vehicles - upfront costs have stayed high and choice has remained limited.

While you can pick from over 130 models in the UK, Australia only has 31 – with less than half under $65, 000.

What’s different between the UK and Australia? Policy settings.

And in the race to secure globally sought-after affordable models, Australia doesn’t get a look in with car markers.

I’d say the lack of any Electric Vehicle Strategy, and the country’s Prime Minister actively campaigning against the technology, hasn’t helped.

Today’s poll reveals that 2 in 3 Australian’s would consider buying electric, and it also indicates Australian’s are crying out for the Government to fill the policy vacuum.

Households and businesses should be able to choose between a wider variety of vehicles, at lower cost.

So an Albanese Labor Government will deliver a comprehensive policy, our Electric Car Discount to bring down the sticker cost of electric vehicles by cutting inefficient taxes.

It’s a great technology that is already available, and yet Morrison and Taylor insist on slugging Australians with inefficient taxes on them to keep the price up.

So much for technology not taxes.

We will exempt fleet vehicles (that’s half of new car sales) from fringe benefits tax, and cut the 5% import tariff on eligible vehicles.

On a $50, 000 car that adds up to $11, 000 in savings, on the purchase price.

And we’ll be doing a lot more too.

Like our Rewiring the Nation fund which will partner with the private sector to modernise the electricity grid off the back of our Energy Market Operator’s blueprint for a renewable future, unleashing investment across the country.

We’ll deliver 400 community batteries across the country to store power for up to 100, 000 homes, further driving down bills.

Providing opportunities in new industries with $100 million to support 10, 000 new energy apprenticeships

And investing in the technology and sovereign capability for low emissions and renewables manufacturing through our National Reconstruction Fund.

There’s plenty more to do, and plenty more that we will announce ahead of the next election.

I’ll just finish with one more insight from the report.

And that is that more than two-thirds of Australians think we should be a world leader in finding solutions to climate change.

I agree with them.

In fact, we already have been, with Martin Green and his team at UNSW for example revolutionising the technology behind solar panels now employed the world over.

But as an economy we’ve missed out on the benefit of manufacturing those products  here and exporting it to a world hungry with demand.

We used to be a country that made things, and we can and should be again.

And renewable manufacturing can and should be at the core of our manufacturing recovery.

But to seize an opportunity you need to recognise it exists.

We’re 8 years down and there’s still no plan for Australia’s climate and energy future under this government.

It’s always too little, too late with Morrison, and it’s Australians that pay the price.

The global race to seize the opportunities of a decarbonising global economy has well and truly begun.

And our Federal Government is not even at the starting blocks.

But today’s report is a reminder that the Australian people are ready to go.

I’m delighted to be able to join you in launching Climate of the Nation today,

and I look forward to helping unleash our nation’s potential as Climate and Energy Minister in an Albanese Labor Government.