Australian Leader Looks to Promote Labor’s New Green Funds to Coal Region

‘It’s a snapshot of the economic and energy transformation underway in Australia, particularly in regional Australia.’
Australian Leader Looks to Promote Labor’s New Green Funds to Coal Region
This photo shows solar panels installed at the Western Downs Green Power Hub in Queensland, Australia. (Courtesy of the Queensland government)

The centre-left Labor government is looking to attract working-class voters through its renewable energy policy as Prime Minister Anthony Albanese touts his plan to decarbonise the nation.

In a speech to the New South Wales (NSW) Hunter Valley region, which has a large-scale coal industry, the prime minister set the scene for Australia’s energy future.

“Every nation needs to decarbonise and electrify,” Mr. Albanese said.

“When we talk about a future made in Australia—we want it made the Australian way. Not entering a race to the bottom on pay and conditions but driving a new generation of good jobs and fair wages in safe workplaces.”

“Highly-skilled workers, making high-value products.”

The prime minister described the path to decarbonisation as the “economic high road” that “runs right through the Hunter.”

“This is a task that traverses far more than energy policy, or industry policy. This is a whole-of-nation opportunity and it demands a whole-of-economy approach.

“It all has to fit together, it all has to pull in the same direction.”

Mr. Albanese threw his support behind the conversion of the Liddell power station—which retired in 2023—into a two gigawatt-hour grid-scale battery (BESS).

“It’s a snapshot of the economic and energy transformation underway in Australia, particularly in regional Australia,” he said. “A journey that every advanced economy has embarked on. And a race that Australia can win.”

Overseas, the U.S. government in 2022 committed to its Inflation Reduction Act which provides $520 billion in programs and funding to accelerate the net-zero transition.

The EU’s 2020 Green Deal serves a similar purpose, as does Japan’s Green Transformation Act released in February 2023.

If Australia doesn’t want to remain “the last link in the global supply chain,” the government must think big on renewables and take inspiration from its allies, the prime minister said.

“You can see that in the unprecedented investments the United States and the EU and Japan and Korea are making in their industrial bases,” Mr. Albanese said.

“We don’t have to go dollar for dollar in our spending, but we can go toe to toe on the quality and impact of our policies.

“I want to see more Australian workers and Australian firms adding value here.

“There is a huge prize on offer here, across every sector of our economy and in every market in our region. That’s why I talk about Australia as a renewable energy superpower—because that’s the truly global scale of the opportunity.”

Labor’s Energy Policy In Stark Contrast With Coalition

As Labor pushes for more funding towards green jobs in areas dependent on fossil fuel, the centre-right Coalition has made clear its support for nuclear power.

“If you’re not serious about nuclear, you’re not serious about net-zero,” said Shadow Climate Change and Energy Minister Ted O’Brien in December 2023.

“It’s why the Coalition is adopting an all-of-the-above approach. We’re open to all technologies from renewables to carbon, capture and storage, zero-emissions nuclear energy, and so much more.”

The opposition has also warned that the reliance on solar and wind power would weaken the economy, leave thousands of homes without power, and make the nation more dependent on foreign powers.

“They should instead learn from other nations which are being far more pragmatic as they base their policies on engineering and economics,” Mr. O’Brien said.

“Prime Minister [Anthony] Albanese and Minister [Chris] Bowen claim to know more about zero-emissions nuclear energy than the 32 countries which currently use the technology and 50 others which are looking at introducing nuclear for the first time.”

Monica O'Shea and AAP contributed to this report.