16 February 2022

I’m joining you from Parliament House in Canberra, and so I acknowledge the Ngunnawal and Ngambri peoples, and pay my respects to their elders past, present and emerging.
My thanks to Bioenergy Australia for convening this event, which comes at an important juncture – three months after the release of the Bioenergy Roadmap, and three months to the next election. 
The Roadmap made clear the potential of your sector, including $10 billion in GDP, over 26,000 new jobs, and emissions reductions of 9 per cent. 
And the election will help to determine whether that potential is realised. 
Whether the Roadmap is just another glossy, a long line of marketing documents gathering dust, or the key to unlocking what you rightly call the “renewable energy giant”.
And while I welcome the release of the Roadmap under the current Government, I put it to you that it will take a change of Government to unlock that potential. 
Over the last nine years, we’ve seen a series of attempts to establish a national energy policy.
Some, including the National Energy Guarantee, have had Labor’s bipartisan support.
But all have collapsed in the Coalition party room. 
And in the absence of an agreed national framework, the current Minister has resorted to picking winners.
There are two problems with that. 
The first is the very real risk of picking the wrong ones. 
Take the Government’s so-called ‘gas-fired recovery’.
Labor understands the important role of gas in firming and peaking electricity, and in industry. 
But the idea that our national economic recovery from COVID-19 should be premised on gas is a nonsense.  
And it’s a nonsense that influences policy, to the detriment of other technologies. 
That’s the second problem with picking winners – they come with losers. 
While the Roadmap was welcome, it was a day late and a dollar short. 
Or more accurately, it was 18 months late, and came with a fraction of the investment we’ve seen in other technologies. 
The Government claims to be spending $20 billion this decade to transition towards net zero. 
If that’s right, then the money announced alongside the Roadmap is less than 0.2 per cent of the total. 
The Government is investing much more in other technologies – including some established technologies, where the case for public subsidy is less clear.
To take the latest example: having failed to legislate the Underwriting New Generation Investments program, the Minister now wants to implement it via regulation, without parliamentary scrutiny.
The Minister wants a blank cheque to support 10 projects – five gas and five pumped hydro – under a process that has been listed for scrutiny by the Auditor-General. 
Now, some of those projects are no doubt worthy. 
But no Minister, let alone this Minister, should have that level of discretion, and Labor will vote to disallow the program.
Programs like that mean there’s not a level playing field for bioenergy. 
And of course, the Government has excluded bioenergy from its list of priority low emissions technologies. 
I welcome your call for sustainable aviation fuel and renewable gas to be added. 
And it would be easy for me to tell you that a Labor Government would do that – that we’d pick even more winners, including you. 
But actually I’m here to tell you that we would take a fundamentally different approach. 
An approach that restores a national policy framework after nine years of chaos.
And an approach that allows experts and markets – not the Minister of the day – to deploy technologies within that framework. 
Let me take you through the three essential elements of that approach. 
First, our commitment to net zero emissions by 2050. 
Net zero is the essential starting point of good climate policy. It’s not sufficient, but it’s necessary. 
Labor has been committed to net zero since 2015. It’s a commitment we would legislate in Government. 
We welcome the fact that the current Government has now joined Labor – and every state and territory, and all of Australia’s major businesses and industry groups – in adopting net zero. 
But the six-year delay, as well as the Government’s continuing refusal to legislate net zero, speaks to the ongoing forces of denial and delay within the Coalition. 
The second element of our approach is a medium-term ambition – a 2030 target – that’s consistent with net zero.
It is now seven years since Tony Abbott was dumped as Prime Minister. 
But the Government has never dumped his woeful 2030 target of 26-28 per cent below 2005 levels.
That target now pales in comparison to similar countries like Canada at 40-45 per cent, Japan at 46 per cent, and the United States at 50 per cent.
Australia’s lack of ambition matters to the climate. We are among the highest per capita emitters in the world.
And it matters to our economy, because it sends the message to global markets and investors that our national government isn’t serious about the energy transition.
That’s why an Albanese Labor Government would lift Australia’s Nationally Determined Contribution to 43 per cent by 2030.
That would bring Australia back into step with leading economies around the world. 
That would be an important signal in itself. 
But the third element of our approach, and perhaps the most important, is that 43 per cent isn’t just a target. 
It’s the modelled outcome of the policies a Labor Government would implement.
Late last year, Anthony and I announced Labor’s climate and energy policy for the next election – Powering Australia.

It’s an ambitious but achievable plan, backed by the most comprehensive independent modelling that an Opposition has ever commissioned. 
We developed the detailed, job-creating policies that make up Powering Australia. And RepuTex then modelled their impact on Australia’s emissions, and on our economy. 
The modelling shows that Powering Australia will create over 600,000 jobs. 

It will cut power bills across the National Electricity Market. 

And it will increase the share of renewables in the NEM to 82 per cent by 2030.
That policy framework is an enormous opportunity for bioenergy, and renewable energy more broadly.
For example, our improvements to the Safeguard Mechanism will drive the adoption of renewable industrial heat.
Of course, the Safeguard is the Government’s own Mechanism, designed when Scott Morrison was in Cabinet and implemented when he was Treasurer.

It was intended to prevent industrial emissions from rising. But rise they have, with the Government’s own projections showing ongoing growth.  

And so groups like the Business Council and Australian Industry Group have recommended improvements.

For facilities that are already covered, Powering Australia adopts those improvements.

Our policy will put overall Safeguard emissions on a trajectory towards net zero by 2050, consistent with the commitment that two-thirds of Safeguard facilities have already made. 

Within that trajectory, each facility will be free to choose its own least-cost form of abatement.
And the RepuTex modelling assumes many facilities will do that with fuel switching to bioenergy.
We’ll support those facilities, and sectors like yours, with two new funds. 
Up to $3 billion from our National Reconstruction Fund will support the deployment of low-emissions technologies to kickstart innovation in new industries, revitalise manufacturing, and secure Australia’s energy future
And a new Powering the Regions Fund will keep Australian industry competitive in a changing global economy, and ensure our regions thrive.
Our policy specifically mentions bioenergy as eligible for support under these funds. 
But as I said earlier, we want those decisions to be made by experts, not politicians. 
That’s fundamental to the approach I’ve outlined today.
I’m happy to take questions, suggestions and accusations on that approach now.  
And I look forward to working with you to unlock the potential of bioenergy in the lead up to the next election and beyond.