House debates

Thursday, 27 February 2020


Appropriation Bill (No. 3) 2019-2020, Appropriation Bill (No. 4) 2019-2020; Second Reading

1:06 pm

Photo of Clare O'NeilClare O'Neil (Hotham, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Minister for Innovation, Technology and the Future of Work) Share this | Hansard source

No problem, Mr Deputy Speaker. The announcement Labor made a couple of weeks ago is completely and positively mainstream. In fact, 73 countries in the world have already agreed to it. We know that if we are going to meet our Paris targets, as the government insistently claims that it will do—and we know it will probably fail to do—it will require us to hit net zero emissions by 2050. We've got the biggest employing companies right across the country essentially falling over themselves to come forward with their plans for how they're going to reach zero net emissions by 2050. Today Rio Tinto, a very large emitter, has said they are going to hit zero net emissions by 2050. Yet those opposite, who are supposed to be showing leadership and running the country, are telling us that this is implausible and silly. Rio Tinto have told us that, to get to zero net emissions by 2050, they are going to spend $1.5 billion investing in making that change. Do you know what that means? It means thousands and thousands of jobs for Australians.

I think people are sick of being terrified in this discussion. The continental drift that is being created by the lack of policy leadership on the other side of the House is leaving people feeling that the government has lost control of how to manage this problem. What I want to talk to you about today is the action we can take and the huge economic opportunities that will come if we face the reality of this problem, like 73 other countries around the world have done, and actually plan for how we are going to transition our economy to net zero emissions.

If there is one thing I really want people to shift in their thinking about how we are talking about this issue in Australia today it's this: so much of the debate we have about climate change in this country pits the concept of economic growth, of jobs, against climate action. It tells us we're going to have to pay more if we take climate action. These conflicts are fictional; they really are. What we know from the best research that is being done on this is that if we make a plan, and if we make the transition well, we are going to have cheaper power, more jobs and faster growth if we take climate action.

So the first thing I want to talk about is climate action and jobs, because there is massive potential for us to employ thousands and thousands of Australians in new industries that will emerge or grow because we have a plan to take climate action. The Business Council of Australia—generally no friends of the Labor Party—have also made a commitment to net zero emissions by 2050 because they know that this is good for the economy and good for jobs but that we're only going to get those good outcomes if we have a clear aspiration and target and we have a plan to achieve it. The BCA have calculated that moving to net zero emissions by 2050 will unleash $22 billion of investment in Australia each year. When we hear those words 'investment in Australia', that equals jobs; it equals jobs and it equals future growth.

The CSIRO has also estimated that, if we continue on our current path, our GDP out to 2060 will grow by 2.1 per cent annually, but, if we target net zero emissions by 2050, we will grow, on average, by 2.75 per cent and wages growth will be higher. So for anyone out there who's having this conflict about, 'We've got to choose between a growing economy and climate action,' I want you to understand this: climate action means growth and it means jobs.

One of the issues that I think the coalition is having with coming to terms with this concept is that their counterfactual for what happens in a world where we don't have a plan to 2050 is that nothing changes. That is not going to happen. Change is inevitable, and it's not just being created by climate action. The workforce is going to change a lot between now and 2050. In 2050, I will be 70; I will be transitioning out of work—that is how far away we are talking here. Think about how different our economy, our workplaces and our working lives looked in 1990. A similar mode of transition is going to happen. The question for us in this chamber is: are we going to try to shape that in any way? Are we going to try to make sure that we get benefits as our economy transitions, or are we just going to stick our heads in the sand and pretend that, if we don't take action on climate change, nothing about our workplaces is going to change? It's wrong. It's a fiction. And I reckon any Australian that you talk to will tell you the same.

Deputy Speaker, I want to talk to you about one example of this, and this is very relevant to the debate about the thermal coal mining sector. There was a period of time in this country where, at its peak, thermal coal mining employed 200,000 people in its workforce. Today it employs 40,000 people. That's not because of the Labor Party. It's not because of any political party. It's not because of climate change and climate action. It's because of automation. These things are going to continue to happen. They are going to continue to change. And you've got two options here: a political party that wants to pretend that that's not really happening, to put its head in the sand and say, 'Oh no, if we just ignore climate change then nothing's going to change for the way that we work in this country,' or a political party that accepts the absolute reality of what is going on here—that things are going to look very different in 2050 and there's no way for us to pretend that we can completely stop change. We've got a choice: to shape it, or to ignore it and to pay the costs. We want to do the responsible thing and that is: to show leadership and make sure that we get the great benefits out of this change.

When we think about how we are going to do that, I can tell you that we have one guiding concern about how we deal with our climate policies, and that is: how we are going to deal with the employment and work outcomes of this. My political party was founded on work. That is what we do. We create and help Australians prepare for dignified jobs that support their families. So when we look at this climate change discussion, we're going to have a choice for Australians. They can go for this party over here—the party of Work Choices, who like to somehow pretend they've discovered credentials with working Australians—or a political party that's existed for 125 years for that express purpose. We are incredibly concerned about how we make sure we make that transition in a way that grows jobs.

The Labor leader gave a great speech on this very subject last year in Perth, talking about climate and the future of work. One of the things that he talked about was the explosion of opportunities that we are actually going to see in the resources sector should we make a proper plan to transition to a better climate future. One of the reasons for that is that we have such a huge endowment of rare earth metals here in Australia, and if we are planning properly for this future—if we've got a government that's willing to get the policy settings right—then we can see an explosion of jobs in this very sector. According to Northern Minerals, a rare earth mine can employ approximately 100 people. But if we think about how we can generate full industries that support these mines, then up to a million jobs can be created in this sector alone.

We've got some of the greatest reserves in the world of iron and titanium, the second greatest reserves of copper and lithium, and the third greatest deposits of silver. These are minerals that will fuel the clean energy economies of the 21st century. So there's a huge opportunity for us here, and it's one that we're not going to capture if we pretend that climate change isn't really happening.

Hydrogen is another one that is pretty obvious. Experts tell us that achieving 50 per cent renewable energy at home, while building a hydrogen export industry, could create 87,000 good well-paid jobs. So there is a great future here for resources, in particular. And that's just one example. We could go through a great deal of the sectors in our economy and talk about how climate is not about costing jobs here; it's about seeing the huge opportunities that we Australians have to capture, but we're only going to get there if we've got a plan.

One of the other issues here is the question about power prices. I keep reading these surveys that are done on Australians talking about, 'Do you agree that you need to take climate action?' and 'Do you agree that you will continue to do that if your power bills go up?' This conflict is a fiction. In fact, when the government was first elected almost seven years ago now, the climate change deniers over there tried to get a report on renewables up saying that renewables would drive up the cost of power, and they got Dick Warburton to do that report— (Time expired)


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