Tuesday, 23 March 2021
Matters of Public Importance
We are facing one of the greatest challenges of our time, and the Morrison government is wasting precious time with its inaction. We need a clear and coherent energy plan, and we need it now. We are getting closer and closer to a real energy crisis. We know some of the ways we can address that crisis but, without guidance and support from the government, industry will continue to be backed against a wall. Climate change is a real and genuine threat. But moving towards a renewable energy future also holds a wealth of opportunity. What frustrates me more than anything with this government's failure on energy is the opportunity for job creation that we are wasting.
This is going to take time. These industries won't pop up overnight. We won't suddenly become 100 per cent reliable on renewables tomorrow. It isn't possible—and, frankly, it would be irresponsible. This is what those opposite don't seem to understand. What we are talking about is a transition, and transitions take time. They take careful planning—making sure we help those who are moving out of old industries at the same time that we are helping people move into new ones. We have to build the skills, which means we have to have a healthy vocational educational system—yes, I am talking about TAFE, another aspect that this government and the New South Wales Liberal government also seem to be conveniently forgetting about. TAFE needs to play a critical role in this, training apprentices, teaching people the skills they need for the future. Education is essential. But even now we are seeing more and more funding being ripped out of TAFE and more and more jobs lost. It sounds like a different issue, but as a former TAFE teacher I can tell you it's not. It should all be forming part of the plan. But this government doesn't have a plan. I often feel like I'm yelling into a black void over so many things, because I can see the potential, I can see what needs to be done, and so can many in my community.
In March I've spent a lot of time talking with organisations about energy. I learnt so much, and I was so proud of what I saw. I met with Phil from Innovate Energy at farmer Tim's farm; he is one of the farmers involved in Australia's first biogas waste energy plant, near Nowra. I've spoken about our cow poo energy project before, but I'm just so excited about it that I can't stop talking about it. Local farmers have been pushing to do this for years, and now it's becoming a reality. I got a first-hand run-through from Phil and Tim. There's another plant on its way, at Kangaroo Valley. Because of the work done by Shoalhaven City Council over many years to develop the Reclaimed Water Management System, which is another fabulous energy innovation, this will be up and running in no time—12 or more months—with South Coast dairy farmers leading the way on energy in Australia.
Then there is Repower Shoalhaven, whose solar farm project is moving along so quickly. It is looking to be up and running by the end of the year. How fantastic is that! They have partnered with Flow Power. I was delighted to get an update only a couple of weeks ago on where things are at. Local businesses are excited to be involved, and it won't be long before the Shoalhaven solar farm becomes a real staple in our local energy market. I also met with the Southcoast Health and Sustainability Alliance in Moruya to talk about how they are helping the Far South Coast community become more energy resilient. They are focusing on strengthening the grid locally and, in only five days, they managed to secure 860 signatures in support of a feasibility study into microgrids across the Eurobodalla. This is remarkable, and it just goes to show that local people want to see us looking to our energy future and formulating a plan now that will help us build that future that will have all those mutual benefits for communities—job creation, lower power bills and addressing climate change.
I want to sincerely thank all the local organisations who are working at this every day. Thank you to those who met with me over the last few weeks to show me how you are leading the way towards our energy future. Now it's time for the Morrison government to step up and do the same.