Good morning and thank you to APPEA for inviting me to speak at this year’s conference.
I would love to be there with you in person – but of course this week is a sitting week and I am speaking to you from Parliament House in Canberra.
I’d like to acknowledge the traditional owners of the land here in Canberra, the Ngunnawal and Ngambri people, as well as the traditional owners of the land on which you are gathered in Perth, the Noongar people of the Whadjuk nation.
I pay my respects to their elders past, present and emerging.
Ladies and gentlemen, it is my absolute pleasure to address you this morning.
I was honoured to be appointed Labor’s Shadow Resources Minister in January – in addition to my role as Shadow Minister for Trade.
As a proud Western Australian, I understand the massive contribution your sector makes to our nation.
I have been privileged to visit some of the giant LNG projects in our nation’s north – among them Chevron’s Wheatstone and Barrow Island, Woodside’s Pluto, the Ichthys project of Inpex and the North-West Shelf joint venture.
And I’m thankful to have met many of you in my time as a shadow minister for both trade and resources.
I want to assure all of you today that Labor supports the Australian gas sector.
Perhaps I will debunk some myths in what I’m about to say, but these are the facts:
- Labor recognises the key role gas plays in creating economic growth and export income earnings for Australia.
- We recognise the many thousands of jobs the industry creates and sustains.
- We recognise the importance of gas as a critical feedstock for Australia’s manufacturing industry, as well as in electricity generation, and in providing the energy that millions of Australian households use for heating and cooking.
- We recognise the role of natural gas as a transition fuel in capitalising on renewable energy opportunities.
- And we support opening up new gas reserves, subject to independent scientific assessments and effective environmental regulation. For example, last month Labor agreed to support the Beetaloo Cooperative Drilling Program Instrument in the Northern Territory. It is important that people are aware that the Beetaloo is a world-class, low-carbon gas basin containing about 3 per cent carbon dioxide. Labor supports the work of the NT Government in commissioning a scientific inquiry into hydraulic fracturing led by Justice Pepper, its consideration of the final report and agreement to implement the 135 recommendations of the inquiry. We believe in the science.
Later this month, Labor leader Anthony Albanese will lead our party’s shadow ministry to the remarkable Pilbara town of Port Hedland.
It is difficult to comprehend the vast scale of mining and port operations until you have seen it for yourself.
It will be an opportunity for many of my east coast colleagues to see this incredible region for themselves and to listen to the concerns of the resources industry workers who contribute so much to our national wealth.
Our message to the people of the Pilbara will be unambiguous: Labor supports the resources sector and the jobs it creates. We support the jobs it creates all over Australia, in our big cities and in our regional towns.
THE POLITICS OF CLIMATE CHANGE
Those of us who care about the future of Australia’s energy sector often find ourselves caught between opposing forces in the toxic climate wars.
On one side of this often counter-productive debate are the activists who naively seek to shut down or rapidly phase out many of our extractive industries and to demonise all fossil fuels.
At the other extreme are the climate change deniers who have ensured that Australia has become an international outlier in the global drive to reduce carbon emissions.
Both of these arguments are dangerous and wrong.
Both pose a risk to the health of our resources sector and to the critical need to address climate change and therefore our economic prosperity in coming decades.
The reality is this: the inevitable global transition to net zero emissions presents a massive economic opportunity for Australia and its natural commodities, including natural gas.
Therefore, good climate policy is good jobs policy.
I believe natural gas will continue to be a major industry in Australia for many, many years to come.
It will play a major part in reducing Australia’s carbon emissions. And it will assist our regional neighbours on their own journey to decarbonisation, as they seek cleaner, non-nuclear burning fuels as part of their energy mix.
Labor recognises the important role your industry will play in achieving net zero emissions by 2050.
Should Labor be successful in the next Federal election, a Labor government will commit Australia to achieve this target.
Labor believes that the Coalition Government has failed your industry – and in fact failed the whole nation - by refusing to commit to net zero emissions by 2050.
I want to acknowledge APPEA’s thought leadership in policy, and in particular your publication earlier this year of the third edition of the APPEA climate change policy principles.
It is a valuable contribution to the very challenging issue of climate change. It is a particularly challenging issue for extractive industries that are high emitters of carbon.
APPEA’s support for national and international climate change policies that achieve net zero emissions by 2050 is crucial.
So I want to recognise the individual members of APPEA that have committed to this target – and to those that have committed to even more ambitious goals.
These commitments are being made by your industry in the absence of any sort of national policy.
It's blatantly obvious that the Morrison Government is completely isolated on the world stage when it comes to taking action on climate change.
More than 120 countries, including 70 per cent of our trading partners, as well as every state and territory in the country, have committed to a target of net zero emissions by 2050.
But not this Government.
We’ve seen the Business Council of Australia, the National Farmers’ Federation, the Australian Industry Group, our biggest airline, our biggest banks, our biggest employers and countless other companies commit to the target.
But not this Government.
Our exporters – including many of you in the room – understand that action is urgently needed and that the cost of inaction will be steep.
Many now face the prospect of carbon border taxes, which are being actively considered by the European Union, the UK and the US.
These taxes will be designed to hit nations, including Australia, that have made insufficient efforts to combat global climate change.
The world is moving on and we are being left behind.
Around the world there is a race going on for new investment and new jobs – and it’s a race Australia should be leading.
Yet we have a Government that is devoid of leadership on the critical issue of climate change.
I can’t fault the enthusiasm for the sector shown by my counterpart, Resources Minister Keith Pitt.
But his comments and actions demonstrate that he is completely out of touch with the policy settings needed for the 21st century.
In 2019, Mr Pitt said solar panels and lithium batteries ‘could turn out to be this generation’s asbestos’.
That was around the same time Scott Morrison claimed the introduction of electric cars in this country would ‘end the weekend’ for Australians.
No wonder we are a global laggard in the take-up of electric vehicles. In fact, we’re actually doing better on the vaccine rollout!
Recently Mr Pitt intervened to stop the Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility from supporting a new wind farm project in Queensland -- all because of his ideological opposition to renewable energy.
This was a project worth $380 million, which was ready to create 250 jobs and provide more affordable power for households and businesses.
In spite of the Morrison Government, Australian companies are moving ahead themselves. And that is pleasing to see.
I congratulate your industry for taking practical measures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, encompassing the entire exploration and production life cycle.
For example, Woodside has invested more than $100 million across Australia through native tree planting offsets over the past 10 years.
Woodside is also investigating a 50-megawatt solar energy project on the Burrup Peninsula to power its Pluto project.
And just last week, the company set new targets to achieve net zero emission by 2050 at Pluto.
The targets, which were approved by the Western Australian state government, include a 30 per cent abatement of emissions by 2030 before full abatement is achieved by 2050.
Your industry cannot wait for the Federal Government to catch up. Your customers around the world are demanding decarbonisation and you are responding. We thank you for that leadership.
Labor recognises that part of the industry’s pathway to net zero emissions is through emerging technologies such as carbon capture and storage and hydrogen.
I welcome the industry’s work, both here in Australia and around the world, to accelerate the development of these low-emissions technologies.
It must be said that there have been some false starts in achieving success with CCS – some of it no doubt due to the admirable ambition of the industry to make it work quickly.
Let me be clear – Labor supports CCS technology.
With our stable geological storage basins, our existing infrastructure, our world-class technical expertise and our strong regulatory regimes, Australia has a competitive advantage in this field.
I encourage you to continue this crucial work. I know our opponents will seek to politicise CCS and make claims about our position on it – but let us remember it was the Rudd Labor Government that established the Carbon Capture and Storage flagships program and it was the Abbott Liberal Government that slashed the programs in the horror 2014 Budget.
In his speech to the National Press Club last year, our leader, Anthony Albanese, committed to support CCS technologies being able to operate carbon offsets, provided the usual safeguards are met.
Labor also committed to support the Government if it reinstates the CCS flagship program.
After all, each of the chief scientists, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and the International Energy Agency recognise that CCS must be part of the global solution to reach net zero emissions.
I also recognise that many of APPEA’s members are at the forefront of world-leading hydrogen technologies.
Companies such as Yara and Engie’s YURI project in the Pilbara, which will harvest the abundant renewable power in WA to make renewable hydrogen and ammonia as feedstock for renewable chemical production as well as renewable fuel for power generation and shipping.
An Australian hydrogen industry would generate significant opportunities – both in using natural gas to produce hydrogen and in using existing gas infrastructure to process and transport it.
This will lower emissions, reduce energy costs, help deliver energy security and open up new employment and manufacturing opportunities.
As Shadow Trade Minister, I am optimistic about the export opportunities for hydrogen in the decades ahead.
I am excited by the prospect that our existing close trade relationships with some of Asia’s powerhouse economies will help turn the dream of hydrogen exports into reality. It is a multi-billion-dollar export industry just waiting to happen.
WHAT LABOR WOULD DO
I’d like to leave you with a few policy proposals that show how Labor is responding to the profound changes coming our way.
Policies that will benefit companies like yours.
As more renewable energy gets built, Australia will need the transmission network to support it.
Right now, that network doesn’t properly integrate the full capacity of the growing renewables sector, let alone unlock its potential.
Labor’s Rewiring the Nation will drive down power prices, give our economy a boost of up to $40 billion and create thousands of new jobs.
A Labor government would invest $20 billion to rebuild and modernise the grid, in line with a blueprint already completed by the Australian Energy Market Operator and signed off by all governments.
This will allow growth in new sectors like hydrogen and battery production and revitalise traditional industries like steel and aluminium.
In addition, our Power to the People policy will connect up to 100,000 homes to 400 community batteries around Australia.
This will reduce power bills and emissions by making households less reliant on the electricity grid.
And it will allow households that can’t install solar – like apartment owners and renters – to draw from excess electricity stored in community batteries.
We’ve also announced the first part of our transport policy – our Electric Car Discount – which will exempt electric vehicles from import tariffs and, where EVs are provided through work, fringe benefits tax.
And finally our National Reconstruction Fund will provide up to $15 billion of capital to invest in job-creating projects through loans, equity and guarantees, with a special focus on value-adding in the resources sector.
The Fund would be administered by an independent board with government setting its mandate to drive investment.
So this is not about picking winners, but targeting investment in priority areas.
A Labor Government will deliver meaningful action on climate change while embracing the jobs, investment and growth opportunities that come with a net-zero carbon economy.
We believe we can have a sustainable future AND clean, affordable and reliable energy.
We believe the gas industry is part of the solution.
The gas industry is taking action on climate change and seeking to reach net zero emissions by 2050, while powering great cities and industries here and abroad. Labor recognises this and urges others to do so.
Thank you again for the work you do for the nation, the jobs you create and best of luck for the rest of the APPEA conference.
Thank you for listening.