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.
Well, when I accepted the Smart Energy Council’s invitation to speak today, I expected to be delivering Labor’s response to the Government’s long-awaited climate announcement.
I’m sure when you scheduled this Race to Zero Conference you also thought we’d be discussing the Morrison Government’s path to zero – not whether the Australian Government was going to turn up at the race at all.
But of course, just 10 days from the COP26 Conference in Glasgow, we still don’t know what policy the Prime Minister will pack in his luggage.
That’s despite the fact it’s 2,966 days since the Coalition was elected.
Almost 3,000 days down – just 10 to go – and still no climate policy.
This is an international conference with participants around the world. I do want to briefly say something to our international guests at this Conference. I say clearly, Australia’s position on climate is so much better than our Government’s.
Australians are ahead of our Government. Australian business is ahead of our government. The Australian states are ahead of our Government.
We know the Australian Government is behind the rest of the world.
The Australian Government is behind the rest of Australia as well.
So please don’t associate the delay and denial of the Australian Government with the Australian people.
Our intention as the alternative Government is to give the Australian people the Government they deserve after the next election – a Government as ambitious to act on climate as the Australian people are.
Now, like most of you I’m sure, I’ve spent recent weeks reading newspapers and tea leaves on the Coalition’s latest climate war. Waking up every day and interpreting the latest sledge of one member of the Cabinet on another or the latest anonymous briefing.
And while Scott Morrison has not yet had the fortitude to settle and announce a climate policy – in fact, besides Parliament, he’s barely made a public appearance for two weeks - I think three things have become clear from the fog of that war.
First, that the Government will almost certainly commit to net zero, but not with universal support, and not in legislation.
Second, that the Government may update its 2030 projections, but won’t increase its 2030 target.
And third, that the Government will reunite to pit Australians against each other, and to run scare campaigns on climate action.
Let me take each of those in turn.
First, I do expect the Government to commit to net zero by 2050.
That’s because it’s the bare minimum they can do – the cheapest possible ticket to Glasgow. Its unthinkable that they won’t.
Labor committed to net zero in 2015. More than130 countries, every state and territory, and most of Australia’s major businesses have since joined us.
This should not be a point of partisan dispute.
I’m glad the Government will soon commit to net zero. It’s an overdue and insufficient step – but a welcome one.
But it’s clear not everyone in the Coalition will take that step. Their disunity and dysfunction will continue.
That speaks to the ongoing forces of climate denial and delay within the Coalition.
But more importantly, it’s clear that the Government won’t legislate its commitment to net zero by 2050.
We’ve already announced that an Albanese Labor Government would legislate net zero – and we strongly believe the Coalition should do the same.
Partly, that’s because net zero is an investment framework as well as an environmental goal.
It’s the long-term destination to guide decisions by governments, businesses and the community for the next three decades.
A national framework of that importance should be reflected in national law.
And what investors need most of all, what they crave, is certainty. The best ticket to certainty is to enshrine the position of the Government in law.
But partly, and frankly, it’s important that we legislate net zero to lock the Coalition in.
Think back to the 2007 election, when both major parties were committed to an emissions trading scheme.
Imagine if the Coalition had legislated that commitment before losing office and changing its mind.
Australia would have enjoyed 14 years of first-mover advantage, instead of enduring 14 years of climate wrecking.
Now, the time for an ETS has passed, in part because renewables have become the cheapest form of new energy.
But the point remains: if and when we achieve bipartisanship on net zero, we should lock it in through legislation. Just as Britain, France and others have already done.
The second thing that’s become clear is that the Government may update its 2030 projection, but won’t update Australia’s nationally determined contribution – our target.
A target is a binding policy against which governments can be held accountable.
A projection is an estimate. A guess. As Anthony said this week, it’s a vibe.
That’s why I’ve been saying for some months that the Government must take higher medium-term targets to Glasgow.
A 26-to-28 per cent reduction, which will remain our 2030 target under Scott Morrison, was set by Tony Abbott – who believes climate science is “absolute crap”.
In 2015, the target was explicitly designed to keep pace with the United States.
The Biden Administration has now doubled that level of ambition.
But Australia is stuck in time while the world warms around us.
That matters for the climate. The next decade will determine whether we keep warming below 1.5 degrees. Our current targets align with 4 degrees.
And it matters for our economy. Another decade of delay will cost Australia the global race on which today’s conference is premised.
The Government’s refusal to increase our 2030 target is even more extraordinary given their claim to “meet and beat” the current target.
If that’s true – why not commit to a higher target?
There are two possible explanations: either the Government is hostage to the Nationals, or it doesn’t actually intend to achieve the projected reductions.
Either is damning.
The third thing that’s become clear in recent weeks is that the Coalition remains addicted to dividing Australians and exploiting the toxic identity politics of climate.
The entire premise of the Coalition’s very public fight is that the Nationals are defending regional Australia from the woke green agenda of city slickers.
Nothing could be further from the truth.
Regional Australia is most exposed to climate change – whether that’s environmental impacts like bushfires, or transition risks like carbon tariffs on regional commodities.
But regional Australia also stands to benefit most from good climate action, because the regions that have powered Australia for generations have the land, the infrastructure, the people and the skills to power us into the future.
The Business Council’s recent modelling found that on average Australians will be around $5,000 better off per person under a net zero scenario – with regional Australians around three times better off compared to capital city residents.
The National Farmers Federation gets it. Meat and Livestock Australia gets it. Thousands of regional Australians who feel betrayed by the National Party get it.
Good climate action is in our national interest.
But at the same time as they’ve been crab-walking towards net zero, the Government has been revving up its scare campaigns for the next election.
As divided and dysfunctional as they are, there is one thing the Liberals and Nationals will unite around: a dishonest scare campaign about the costs of acting on climate.
And based on previous form, the alleged “modern Liberals” will engage in the dishonesty with the same alacrity as the climate change deniers.
The Government is already gearing up for it.
We saw it when the Business Council proposed reforms to the Safeguard Mechanism.
Now it’s important to remember the Safeguard Mechanism is the Government’s own policy. When they abolished the carbon price they said the mechanism would prevent industrial emissions rising.
When the BCA - which represents many of the firms actually covered by the Mechanism - suggested changes, Angus Taylor was quick to label it a “sneaky carbon tax”, which must have surprised those big-taxing socialists at the BCA.
That’s the level of sophistry and dishonesty the LNP will continue to engage in.
We saw it when the Prime Minister was reminded that he said, just last year, that net zero by 2050 requires emissions reductions of 43 per cent by 2030.
Not so, said the Prime Minister. That’s was true of Labor’s commitment to net zero, which would be economy-wrecking. A Coalition commitment to net zero would be very different.
Apparently their net zero is a very different number to our net zero.
We saw it with Angus Taylor this week defending their scare campaigns about electric vehicles.
The same campaigns that targeted ads to individual ute owners saying Labor was coming for their cars – some of the grossest fearmongering and dishonesty I’ve seen.
Labor’s policy is to cut taxes on EV’s and get more options into a market that has barely any. Carmakers rightly acknowledge Australia is a dumping ground because of gross policy neglect.
So we, and you, should fully expect yet another scare campaign at the next election.
And of course, the Government’s preference buddy and scare campaign financier of choice, Clive Palmer will be working in tandem with them.
But despite that inevitability, let me add a fourth thing that should be clear by now: Labor will take an ambitious set of climate and energy policies to the next election.
We’ve already announced substantial Climate and Energy policies.
$20 billion to rewire our electricity grid – to connect more renewables and slash power bills.
Inefficient taxes cut from low-emissions vehicles.
400 community batteries rolled out around Australia.
10,000 apprentices training in the new energy jobs of the future.
But of course we have a lot, lot more to announce.
As a responsible Opposition, we’ve given the Government the time and space to get this right, particularly at COP.
And after all, only the Coalition will represent Australia in Glasgow. Announcing our policies any earlier wouldn’t have changed that fact.
But it’s increasingly clear that the Government’s policy will fall short of what we, you, the Australian people and the global community expect.
So there will be a clear policy difference between Labor and the Coalition at the next election.
And as I’ve said, the Government and its reactionary allies will use that difference to mount a scare campaign.
All too often, that’s a fight we’ve lost.
But I’m confident that, working together, those of us who are committed to genuine climate action can win the argument.
That’s because we have the facts on our side.
The fact that climate action is not just an environmental imperative, but an economic opportunity.
The fact that regional Australia has the most to lose from climate change, and the most to gain from good climate action.
And the fact that Labor is the only party of Government that knows that the world’s climate emergency is Australia’s jobs opportunity –
And has the ambition and the policies to seize it.
Thanks and I look forward to your questions.