Why I want Labor to help the PM fix Australia’s energy mess: Joel Fitzgibbon

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The Clean Energy Finance Corporation and the Australian Renewable Energy Authority are proud Labor achievements and despite the government’s best efforts, growth in our renewables sector has been impressive. It’s now for Morrison to demonstrate that with more money, he can expand tasks of the CEFC and ARENA without distracting them from their focus, the renewable energy sector.

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A little more than six years ago, the Abbott government taught us what no to do. By repealing the Gillard government’s sophisticated and legislated carbon-pricing mechanism, Tony Abbott guaranteed the “carbon wars” would remain a feature of the Australian political landscape for at least another decade. We are all now paying a price.

If Gillard’s architecture had remained in place, today’s energy prices would likely be lower, manufacturing job numbers would be higher, carbon pollution would be lower, the electricity grid more reliable, and like the GST, people would barely know it was there.

Investors would be making good returns from a more modern and predictable energy system, resources companies would still be exporting their coal, gas and iron ore, and both industrial and household consumers would be looking favourably upon Gillard’s legacy. Further, Australia would now be holding its head high on the international stage, using its carbon-reduction achievements to argue, with credibility, that our under-performing friends around the world should follow our example.

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If Abbot had not abolished Labor’s $1.7 billion fund for carbon capture and storage, that technology would now be more advanced. If Malcolm Turnbull and Scott Morrison had not wasted so much time and energy on the politics of the Liddell power station, our progress on hydrogen might also be better.

Since 2014, Coalition prime ministers have been telling us the policy architecture they have in place will be sufficient to keep energy prices down, reduce carbon output, and to keep our electricity grid stable and reliable. Despite that, they have constantly changed direction. They proposed an NEG (national energy guarantee), a CET (clean energy target) and an EIS (emissions intensity scheme), and delivered none of them. They promised “direct action” through the Emissions Reduction Fund would bring down carbon pollution down. It hasn’t. They told us farmers would be able to participate in the carbon market. Not true.

The Prime Minister’s hand-picked adviser, Andrew Liveris, told the National Press Club on Wednesday that he stands with all those who have taken the pledge on zero-net emissions. This should be Scott Morrison’s next step, just before finally releasing a coherent energy policy. Let’s get on with it. Now more than ever, the nation needs effective action from its politicians.

Joel Fitzgibbon is the federal Labor spokesman for agriculture and resources.

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