Australian Economy

Colin Barnett ‘right on’ Scarborough tanking Labor’s 2030 goal, says Greens’ Adam Bandt

“It poses a risk to Australia,” he said. “Australia’s climate and Australia’s economy will suffer if this gas and coal is sucked out of the ground and burnt. It doesn’t matter where the burning happens.”

Mr Bandt said trading partners such as Japan and South Korea had made clear their appetite for Australian hydrogen – “that’s hydrogen that’s not produced from gas or coal” – and there were “booming export markets for us in terms of green minerals and green metals”.

Risk of stranded assets

“We made the point during the election campaign very forcefully that we support the development of a green metals and minerals and processing industry here in Australia – there’s a huge job and export opportunity for us on that front.”

“But investing now in more gas will result in substantial stranded assets because there is a global push on to get out of gas.”

Mr Bandt also attacked the gas industry as a “systemic non-payer of tax, according to the ATO”, doubling down on what Greens expect to be a growing campaign against the industry.

“In one year alone 27 gas corporations brought in $77 billion in income and paid not one cent of tax … their contribution to the federal budget is embarrassingly small.”

The Financial Review reported on Tuesday that Labor quietly assured the resources industry ahead of Saturday’s election – in one case in writing, but also verbally – that it understood the importance of coal and gas to the economy and would consult on changes.

Labor resources spokeswoman Madeleine King said Australians could be assured that the new government “understands that it’s the resources industry itself that has stepped forward to take action on climate change and has been for a number of years, while … the Liberal Nationals government were the ones fighting against that action on climate change”.

“The industry itself may want to take more action and that will be up to them, and we would support that,” Ms King told Sky on Tuesday.

Mr Bandt said in the interview that the gas industry had enjoyed “an outsized influence on Australian public policy, and it seems that influence may continue over the Labor Party as well.”

“Part of our job in the parliament is to say, ‘these gas corporations aren’t just cooking the planet, they’re taking the country for a ride’.”

Labor’s likely minister for emissions and energy, Chris Bowen, has indicated that despite Saturday’s election producing a “climate super-majority” in parliament, the government is focused on delivering what it promised.

That includes, if necessary, bypassing parliament and setting a 2030 national target of a 43 per cent cut in emissions, and establishing a plan to get there, including by ratcheting up the former Coalition government’s safeguard mechanism to put genuine pressure on big emitters.

Clear message

Asked about the prospect of Labor moving without the Greens’ Senate approval, Mr Bandt said the election delivered a clear message.

“Labor’s vote went backwards at the election and Labor needs to listen to the very clear mandate delivered by the Australian people that they want greater action on climate.”

He warned that approving big new gas projects and coal expansions would mean Labor “will not be able to take Greens’ votes in the Senate for granted”.

“Labor now has to deal with a parliament that the people have delivered, which is one where Labor does not have the majority in the Senate,” he said.

The Greens leader – who has presided over an expansion in the party’s representation in parliament, taking its Senate team to 12 – said Australia needed to get to net zero by 2035 (15 years sooner than Labor or the Coalition have pledged) and 100 per cent renewables by 2030.

“In terms of the mechanisms to get coal and gas out of the system, in the timelines that we need, our preference is for a legislated, orderly timetable for the withdrawal of coal-fired power from the system and the phase out of thermal coal exports by 2030 via a declining permit system so that the amount of exports declines steadily between now and 2030.

Getting to the end result

“Thermal coal will take a bit longer – 2040 would be the time to get out of thermal coal to allow more development for replacement technologies, especially in steel making, but we’re open-minded about that.

“What matters now is the final result. And so, we’re open-minded about that, and we’re open to having a discussion with the new government about preferred methods for getting to the end result.

“But it’s difficult to have that discussion in good faith, on the one hand, if on the other hand they’re adding to the problem by opening new projects.”

Mr Bandt said the gas industry itself was the biggest user of gas because of the energy it required to process and transport the fuel. “It is keeping Australia’s emissions much higher than they should be,” he said.

“And there’s a reason Joe Biden is leading a global push to deal with methane. It’s up to 86 times more potent as a climate gas than CO2.”

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