Address to the Better Futures Forum

7 September 2022

CHRIS BOWEN: Thanks very much, Dermot, and I also want to acknowledge the fact that this is Ngunnawal and Ngambri land. The camera is asking me to get behind the lectern. There you go.

I also want to acknowledge that this is Ngunnawal and Ngambri land and pay my respects to elders past, present and emerging. And I was very pleased that State and Territory Energy Ministers agreed a few weeks ago, unanimously, to co-design with our First Nations people a First Nations Clean Energy Strategy because First Nations people, of course, are at the front-line of battling the impacts of climate change right around the country. There is no disadvantage that isn’t made worse by climate change, but, of course, First Nations people need to be and will be very much at the centre of the solutions as well.

Well, friends, I really have three quick messages for you this morning. Firstly, together, we’ve done a fair bit in the last 110 days. The government has done a lot, but we haven’t done it alone. We’ve done it working together. Tonight, or tomorrow, the Parliament will pass the Climate Change Bill. It will become the Climate Change Act in the next 24 hours. It’s been a long time between drinks for sensible, progressive climate legislation in our country, but it’s just the beginning. We’ve got a lot more to do, but we’ve done it together. People across the Parliament, passing it through the House of Representatives, 89 votes to 55 – the margin won’t be that big in the Senate, but a majority it shall be. Working together on sensible ideas and people going with what can be done in a workable Parliament to get the job done. And it’s not just about the climate legislation, of course, because a target is easier set than met. We’re getting on with the job whether it’s offshore wind zones, declaring the first zones, beginning the process of consultation on the second, third and fourth zones and the fifth zone. An area which is so jobs rich and energy rich in regions which are in such need of economic investment as they undertake such major economic change. Whether it’s beginning the conversation about how we decarbonise our transport sector.

We will pass our electric vehicle tax cut through the House of Representatives this fortnight. I’m confident that will pass the Senate as well. We’ve begun the conversation about how we require car manufacturers to actually send fuel-efficient zero-emissions cars to Australia. Part of the issue is still increasing demand, sure, but more and more the issue is supply. As we know, when a new electric vehicle comes on sale in Australia, you better be quick, because they sell out in the first 30 seconds. We’re not getting enough supply. Australia is the only country in the OECD not to require car manufacturers to send fuel-efficient zero-emissions vehicles to our country. That has an impact. Only Australia and Russia in the developed world have no obligations on car manufacturers. That has an impact. We’re having that conversation about how we fix that. Getting on with the job.

And I was very pleased that clean energy was such a big factor in last week’s successful Jobs and Skills Summit. While I was representing us at the G20 Climate and Energy Ministers, John Grimes and Kane Thornton and others were doing such a good job representing you at the Jobs and Skills Summit because clean energy is, as we all know, the centre of a successful economy. So, that’s the first message. We’ve done a fair bit.

My second message is, though, we’ve got a lot, lot more to do. This is just the beginning, just the framework. Now, some of you have heard me say before there’s only 88 months to 2030. I’m here to tell you it’s now September; there’s 87 months to 2030. The clock is eight years is actually a big ask. I want it to be a floor. I want us to do better. We’ll get emissions down as low as possible, but actually reducing emissions over that time frame is actually lightning speed when you consider how late our country is starting on this journey.

Our daughter Grace is doing the HSC at the moment. She starts university next year. It seems like yesterday we were dropping her off at kindergarten. That was 12 years ago. And yet we got a lot less than that to reduce emissions by 43 per cent and get it done, and it’s not going to happen unless we build 10,000 kilometres of transmission lines their emissions, our 215 biggest emitters reducing emissions under the safeguard’s mechanism. It’s not going happen unless we decarbonise our transport system. It’s not going to happen unless the government itself gets to net zero by 2030. All these things have to happen and more. So, we’ve got a lot to do and again I want to do it together with you, with the industry, across the board.

And my final and third message is this: the dividend for our country is enormous. Some people say, “oh, well, you know, we shouldn’t be doing this. Other countries should be doing this.” You know and I know that’s nonsense. You know and I know we’re the 14th biggest emitter in absolute terms. To argue that we shouldn’t do anything because this country is bigger than us is to argue that, well, the 13 big countries should do something but us and the 190 countries below us shouldn’t bother. You know that’s a fallacious argument. You know it’s a moral obligation to the rest of the world and future generations. All that is true. But even if it wasn’t true, even if no other country was doing nothing, it’s in our nation’s interests to become a clean energy superpower. It is good for our country, good for our economy, good for our national security. It is good for us. It is in our national interests.

For too long, Australians have been told – for 10 years and longer Australians were told action on climate change might be all morally virtuous, but it comes at a cost to you and the dividend for our country is enormous, as you know with your Sunshot project. As so many reports, so many analyses, as common sense tells us, with more sunlight hitting our landmass than any other country in the world, with above-average wind, we have enormous opportunities to do all that and more. Choose your superlative. Renewable energy superpower. Renewable energy powerhouse. The Saudi Arabia of renewable energy. Whatever it is. Whatever your preferred superlative is, it’s all accurate and true and potential. But again, as I said, before not unless we get on with it, build the transmission, build the storage.

We can build renewable energy. We know how to do that. We’ve got to know how to store it as well. You’ve heard me say before, sure, the sun doesn’t always shine, and the wind doesn’t always blow. That is a fact. Congratulations to the deniers and the delayers for working that out. The rain doesn’t always fall either and we store water. We drink that water every day. It can be done with storage, and it will be done with storage. But this is the key. Build the renewables, build the storage, build the transmission and then build it more so we can export it to the world. These are the opportunities for us.

And I’ll finish with this point, and I mentioned it once or twice. We do it together. In the Albanese Government we’ve got passion, we’ve got energy, we’ve got urgency and we know it all. We’ll work across the Parliament in good faith. We’ll work across the sector in be able to work with. Some might be difficult, but we’ll always work it through and talk it through together and work out what can be done. This is the opportunity facing our country. I can’t wait to do more with you. It has to be done. We’ve wasted a decade. We’re not wasting a second now and nor do we have a second to waste. So, let’s get on with it.

Thank you for your time this morning.