DOORSTOP: 21/5/20

May 21, 2020


MARK BUTLER: Thanks for coming out this morning. Obviously the Government has released a technology road map that was due some time ago. Labor intends to take our time to study this road map and to engage with business, unions and environment groups about its content. We do hope that it provides the basis for some progress, finally, on Australia’s energy crisis.
This is, after all, the Government’s 19th energy policy over the last several years and so far they have not managed to stick the landing on a single one of them. Progress is particularly important because, as the Reserve Bank advised only a short while ago, even before the COVID-19 pandemic renewable energy investment in this country had collapsed because of a lack of energy policy. The Reserve Bank advised that renewable energy investment in 2019 collapsed by as much as 50 per cent. So clearly, a better way forward is important.
A technology roadmap is useful as far as it goes but there is no shortage of reports lining government bookcases about energy technology, all of which confirm that the cheapest and the cleanest way to renew our ageing, increasingly unreliable electricity system is centred on renewable energy. What is needed though is an investment framework that will give investors confidence to make that technology a reality and to deliver it on the ground. That is what is still lacking from this Government.
JOURNALIST: You mentioned that you haven’t had enough time to go through it yet but do you think that at a glance that it is enough?
BUTLER: There are two pathways for this Government. Either they can embrace the future of electricity which around the world is recognised as being renewable energy - the cheapest, the most reliable, the cleanest way of renewing ageing electricity systems. They can take that pathway. To the extent that this roadmap does that, we will embrace it, we will walk with them. Or they can continue to pander, frankly, to the extremists in their party room who are determined to cling to the past rather than embrace the future. I think it still remains to be seen which of those two choices Scott Morrison intends to take with this roadmap. I do make the point though, a roadmap that sets out electricity technology is useful as far as it goes. But it is no substitute for an investment framework that makes that technology a reality for Australia’s electricity system.
We desperately need investment. Renewable energy investment collapsed last year by 50 per cent. Our electricity system is ageing with much of it operating beyond its design life. We’ve got to move from technology reports to actual investment.
JOURNALIST: So you don’t think this roadmap is strong enough?
BUTLER: We want to study it, we want to engage with business and others about it. But I do make the point there are endless reports that talk about energy technology, all of which say essentially the same thing - renewable energy is the future for Australia and for the rest of the world. What we’re lacking, what we’ve been lacking since the demise of the National Energy Guarantee which was supported by Scott Morrison and Josh Frydenberg in previous positions that they held, is the lack of an investment framework. An investment framework that gives investors confidence to deliver these technologies on the ground because that is what will make a difference for Australian businesses and households.
JOURNALIST: Is Labor still committed to its 2030 targets?
BUTLER: We’ve said that over the course of the remaining time in this term of Parliament, well before the election, we will develop a detailed climate policy, a detailed energy policy and put that before the Australian people. We always make sure that our policies are evidence based and they are based on the best, most timely advice that we can source from independent experts and engaging with business, unions and environment groups. We will do that at the next election as we have in the past.