Address to Clean Energy Council


This is Gadigal land. It always will be.

The Gadigal people have had a deep connection with this country for 60,000 years.

That connection, along with that of all our Indigenous people, should be acknowledged and celebrated in our governing document, the Australian Constitution.

And in a nation still racked with unacceptable Indigenous disadvantage, there should also be a Voice for our First Nations people enshrined in that same Constitution.

Australia is the last developed country with a colonial past to reach constitutional settlement with its First Peoples.

New Zealand reached a constitutional settlement with their First Peoples in 1840 and guaranteed Māori representation to Parliament in 1867.

Canada recognised their first peoples in their Constitution in 1982.

It’s time. 

Time to catch up. 

Time to make it right.

I welcome the support of the Clean Energy Council for the Yes campaign.

We are, of course, already seeing disinformation be deployed in the No campaign.

The clean energy sector knows all too well and all too bitterly how potent organised disinformation can be.

So my request is that we work together to identify and correct that disinformation wherever we see it.

Let’s not miss this opportunity.

Friends -

A lot has happened since the last Clean Energy Council conference last year.

•    We’ve lifted our country’s emission reduction targets by half, from 26 per cent to 43 per cent and become one of just 33 countries to have enshrined those targets, together with net zero, in the law of the land, sending a message to renewable energy investors around the world that Australia has changed and is open and welcoming to renewable investment.
•    We have legislated to bring the Climate Change Authority back to play a real and meaningful role in advising government and have properly resourced it.
•    We’ve put net zero in the objects of the CEFC and ARENA Acts to ensure they keep this goal front of mind when making decisions and made it relevant to other key agencies such as Infrastructure Australia and Export Finance Australia.
•    We’ve legislated our $20 billion Rewiring the Nation fund and struck funding deals for vital new energy infrastructure with New South Wales, Victoria and Tasmania.
•    We’ve developed, and are implementing, a four-point plan for better community engagement on transmission and commissioned a review on what more we can and should do to improve social licence.
•    We’ve finalised the law allowing offshore wind development in Australia.  We’ve designated the Gippsland and Hunter zones and begun consultation on the Southern Ocean zone. Expressions of interest for Gippsland licences are being processed and EOIs will soon open for the Hunter Zone.
•     After years of talk we have agreed a sensible capacity investment scheme with the states, which will unleash at least six gigawatts of dispatchable renewable power and $10 billion of investment. We’ve launched the first auction with New South Wales, with Victoria and South Australia to follow shortly.
•    We have also agreed with all States and Territories to finally put emissions reduction into the National Energy Objectives so our regulators and operators have it as one of their guiding principles when setting the rules for our energy market.
•    We have agreed with the states and territories to develop a new National Energy Transformation Partnership to help guide public and private investment - what I call the ISP on steroids.
•    We’ve signed the Global Methane Pledge and joined the Climate Club and Global Offshore Wind Alliance.
•    We’ve given the Safeguard Mechanism teeth, requiring net emissions reductions from our 215 biggest emitters of 5 per cent a year, equivalent of taking two-thirds of the cars off our roads by 2030.
•    Talking of cars, we’ve passed the electric vehicle discount.  This has driven the increase in electric car sales from around 2 per cent when we came to office to close to nine per cent today.
•    We’ve funded and are about to commence the rollout of our Driving the Nation charging program, which will see a fast charger once every 150km on average on our highways.
•    We’ve released the National Electric Vehicle Strategy, most importantly including the commitment to implement Fuel Efficiency Standards, a reform, which last time it was tried, lasted three hours.
•    And I can report to you today that we are ahead of target on our policy of making 75 per cent of Commonwealth purchases of cars low emissions by 2025.
•    We’ve commissioned the independent Chubb Review to verify and improve the important carbon credit market to ensure it is delivering real emissions reduction.  We have implemented or are in the process of implementing every one of its recommendations.
•    We have committed $1.7 billion to the Energy Savings program, providing real financial support to households, businesses and local governments to invest in renewable energy and energy efficiency.  This includes a long overdue commitment of $300 million to begin to finally give social housing tenants the chance to access renewable energy and energy efficiency.
•    We’ve signed funding agreements to deliver more than 50 community batteries around Australia and the broader expression of interest process for a further 342 through ARENA is well underway.
•    With the ACT we’ve signed the first funding agreement which will see support for renters and apartment dwellers to make the transition to renewables through our solar banks program. 
•    We’ve established the Net Zero Economy Agency to have a laser-like focus on the economic opportunities for the regions at the centre of the energy transformation – the regions which have powered Australia for generations.
•    We’ve funded and are developing the Guarantee of Origin scheme so Australian renewable energy providers are able to vouch for the credentials of their product when promoting it at home and abroad.
•    We have budgeted $2 billion to the vital Hydrogen Headstart program so Australia stays in the green hydrogen game.
•    And we have lodged our bid to host COP31 with the Pacific in 2026.

Apart from that, it has been a quiet year.

But we are just getting started. There is so, so much more to do.

I’m pleased but not yet satisfied.

So, what’s next?

Net zero plan and sectoral plans

As you know, last year I delivered the first Annual Climate Statement, a requirement under our Climate Change Act, which requires our Government and future governments to be open and transparent about progress, opportunities and stumbling blocks on our ambitions and future plans.

The Climate Change Authority, which has a legislated role in that process, recommended that we update Australia’s Net Zero 2050 plan and underpin it with plans for our major economic sectors.

As you know, Australia’s currently lodged 2050 plan is a fantasy, invented by the Morrison Government. 

It assumes future technologies will do the heavy lifting without any effort or investment to bring them about.

I accepted the CCA’s advice at the time to develop a Net Zero 2050 plan and today announce the next steps.

I’ve also listened to, and been struck by, advice from Australian and international investors that government-guided sectoral plans are vital for attracting billions in new investment in decarbonisation in Australia.

So today I’m announcing the Albanese Government will be working with industry, the climate movement, experts, unions and the community to develop sectoral decarbonisation plans.

I’m also delighted that last week in Devonport, Australia’s climate and energy ministers unanimously agreed to lean in and work collaboratively and closely with our Government on delivering the plan.

Each of my Cabinet colleagues will also work closely with their ministerial council colleagues in the work.

And so, I can announce today that we will begin developing plans for:
•    Electricity and Energy,
•    Industry,
•    the Built Environment,
•    Agriculture and Land,
•    Transport and
•    Resources.

Developing each plan will be a joint effort between me and my Cabinet colleagues:  Ed Husic when it comes to Industry and the Built Environment, Murray Watt and Tanya Plibersek when it comes to Agriculture and Land, Madeleine King on Resources and Catherine King on Transport.

The waste sector will be included both in the industry plan and a focus on the circular economy will be a cross-cutting issue for all sectors.

The Climate Change Authority will also receive a reference from Parliament to develop sector pathways which will help inform the plans.

Today I have written to the Climate Change Authority asking them to provide their statutory advice under the Climate Change Act on the 2035 target. I expect to receive this advice in late 2024.

The sector plans will feed in to both our Net Zero 2050 plan and strong 2035 targets which we will lodge in keeping with our Paris commitments.

There will be heavy rounds of engagement with the community on each plan and I know I can count on the Clean Energy Council and your members to participate.

The level and quality of dialogue and collaboration with industries, experts and citizens will set these plans apart from anything that’s been done before.

This is a shared endeavour: we must work together to do what’s both possible and practical to stop dangerous climate change and realise the economic opportunities of net zero.

The end result will be six net zero sectoral plans that are robust, ambitious but achievable, and accepted by the broader community.

The Alternative

Now friends, I want to be frank with you about the political debate in Australia around your sector.

You are all interested in good policy.  Being interested in good policy means being interested in politics.

I opened this speech with a list of the things we have done since May 2022.

Every single one of these things - Every single one of them was done against the wishes of the Federal Opposition.

The last election was stark choice when it came to climate policy.

The next election will be an even starker choice.

Under Peter Dutton’s leadership, the Federal Coalition has gone backwards on climate policy.

Scott Morrison was a terrible Prime Minister for climate change.

I say to you deliberately and soberly, Peter Dutton would be worse.

That takes some doing.  It is a low bar in the Coalition but Peter Dutton has managed to limbo under it.

The man who joked about water lapping the homes of Pacific Islanders has not improved.

Every time Peter Dutton talks about climate change or renewable energy he underlines that he doesn’t understand it.  And he shows no sign of wanting to understand it.

He says renewable energy doesn’t work at night.

He appears unaware that the wind still blows in the evening, and offshore wind blows even stronger.

He says that batteries can only last an hour. 

Not true.

Every time he says that, he just reminds everyone how little he understands how our energy grid and renewable energy works, when current technologies can last up to eight hours and are getting even better.

Even worse than Dutton is the cabal of climate denial that runs policy in the Federal Opposition.

In 2023, the alternative government of Australia is replete with climate change deniers.

Barnaby Joyce is still the loudest and most influential voice in the alternative government on energy policy.

His number one priority is stopping the rollout of cleaner, cheaper renewable energy.

He’s supported by the likes of Keith Pitt and Colin Boyce who continue to spread fear and falsities about renewables and deny the imperatives of action.

The current leader of the Nationals, David Littleproud publicly calls for a “pause” in the rollout of renewables. As if the last decade wasn’t pause enough.

The LNP includes the likes of Gerard Rennick and Alex Antic who revel in the climate-denying, vaccine-decrying, World Economic Forum-fearing, Putin-loving dark nether regions of the kooky right.

It is true that Gerard Rennick lost preselection last week.  That’s a good thing.   

But he had a letter of endorsement from Peter Dutton in his preselection pocket.

Let’s just reflect on that for a moment. 

The man who wants to be considered as the alternative Prime Minister of Australia strongly endorsed the candidacy of a man who engages daily in blatant conspiracy theory propagation and disinformation when it comes to climate and vaccines.

He is the alternative Prime Minister from the alt right.

This is no trivial matter. 

The fact that the Coalition is perfectly happy to accommodate these denizens of denial should fill anyone concerned about climate change or cheaper energy with dread.

It’s not just a matter of LNP members issuing weird tweets denying the science of climate change. 

The existence of this bloc in the LNP is a hand brake on sensible policy from the conservative side of the aisle and an indication that a conservative government, should one be elected, would be even worse than a return to the ten years of delay we so recently emerged from.

Those few in the LNP who acknowledge, finally, that we need to reduce emissions promote nuclear energy as their answer.

The very people who spent a decade telling us we didn’t need to worry about climate change now want to us believe they are the ones with the answers.

The more subtle and nuanced members of the Coalition have moved on from out-right denial to distraction by promoting the nuclear fantasy story.

There are five fatal facts about using nuclear energy to power Australian homes:

1)   It’s cripplingly expensive
2)   It’s very slow to build.
3)   It’s unproven.
4)   It’s not flexible
5)   And five, it produces enormous waste.

On cost, we have the evidence of the CSIRO and AEMO, who I take seriously but the Opposition does not.  

The latest Gencost Report, out today in fact, confirms that the more we learn about small modular reactors (SMR’s), the more expensive they get.

SMR’s, even with all the supposed technological advancement coming this decade, are tracking to be up to five times more expensive than firmed wind and solar in 2030.

Even the World Nuclear Industry status report tells us that nuclear costs rose 36 per cent between 2009 and 2021 while solar costs fell 90 per cent and wind by 72 per cent.

It’s slow to build and once built can’t be easily turned on and off, so is effectively useless as peaking and firming.

Despite the rhetoric, it’s unproven. 

To listen to Peter Dutton you’d think there are SMRs everywhere around the world. In fact there are two: one on a barge in Russia and one demonstration plant in China.

And SMRs produce more waste than large nuclear facilities.

Stanford University found that small nuclear reactors would produce waste at up to 30 times more than large nuclear facilities.

Let’s call this what it is: a dead cat distraction from a party which brought us ten years of denial and delay.

Well, we won’t be distracted.  We’ll be getting on with the job.

Under Labor, we will be a renewable super-power. Mr Dutton wants us to be a nuclear energy backwater.


Friends -

Being Minister for Climate and Energy, being responsible for our massive renewable energy transformation, is by far the most important job I have ever done.

I love it.

One of the things I love about it is working with people who are as talented and positive as you are in this room.

It’s become fashionable in recent weeks in the pages of a couple of our newspapers to claim that our renewable targets are TOO ambitious, that they can’t be met.

It’s true that they are ambitious.  It’s true it’s a big job with plenty of hurdles.

But I reject utterly the argument that it can’t be done.

We have the drive and energy in the Government to get the job done.  And, importantly, I know you do too.

I enjoy partnering with the Clean Energy Council and each and every one of you on this important task.

We’ve done a lot.  There’s a mountain left to climb.  Let’s get on with it.  Together.