Annual Climate Change Statement

07 February 2024


Ms CLAYDON (Newcastle—Deputy Speaker) (17:57): It's with great pleasure that I rise to speak to this Annual climate change statement by the Minister for Climate Change and Energy and to lend my full support. Certainly the Albanese Labor government came to office with a very clear plan for this nation. It was a plan for jobs and economic growth, for energy prices and cost-of-living relief, for averting climate change and for transforming industry and competing in a decarbonising world. Our plan is comprehensive but it's simple. It's about delivering cheaper, cleaner, more reliable energy. It's about decarbonising our economy and establishing Australia as a renewable energy superpower. Newcastle, my home town, is central to this plan. Newcastle and the Hunter Region have powered Australia for generations and we will continue to do so well into the future. With our skilled workforce, abundant resources, industrial expertise and critical rail and port infrastructure our region is poised to take full advantage of the new energy industries. Let's talk through a few of these now.

Last year, the Albanese government officially declared an offshore wind zone off the coast of Newcastle, paving the way for large-scale production of clean energy and for good, secure local jobs for decades to come. The declared area stretches over 1,800 square kilometres between Norah Head to the south and Port Stephens to the north. It could generate up to five gigawatts of wind energy, enough to power an estimated 4.2 million homes and local industries into the future. For locals that means we could generate almost twice as what power coming out of Eraring coal-fired power station today. We are talking about a big, big generator of clean energy.

Offshore wind projects in the area have the potential to create up to 3,120 construction jobs and another 1,560 ongoing operational jobs. This represents an exciting opportunity for Newcastle. The strong, consistent winds off our coast, our deepwater port, our highly skilled energy and manufacturing workforce and our existing electricity transmission infrastructure make our region an ideal location. Around the world, offshore wind turbines coexist with bird and sea life as well as thriving shipping industries. I've been fortunate to see this firsthand myself.

Developing a new offshore wind sector in Australia will not only help deliver more renewable energy and help the environment, it will also drive regional investment and create jobs. For Newcastle, this means new jobs in local manufacturing, in construction, in maritime transport, in logistics and tourism—yes, tourism. I know it's been an issue for some, but during my own self-funded fact-finding mission in Denmark and north-east Scotland, I saw firsthand tourist boats taking visitors out to see the wind turbines. It was a whole new area of industry for ecotourism. And it means continued growth for our vocational education and training pathways, our TAFEs and universities.

Novocastrians get it. In fact, just this morning I heard from a constituent in Stockton who wrote to me to express his total support for offshore wind power generation as proposed off our Newcastle-Port Stephens coast. Bruce said:

'I'm sick and tired of the purveyors of self-interest who fail to see the many benefits of this essential project. The Jobs outlook during construction and further into the future after completion is substantial and far outweighs the whingers and their self-interest claims of harm to current jobs and the local economy. Please do the utmost to keep this project online and going ahead to help the Nation and the Planet.'

Thank you, Bruce.

His sentiments are echoed by the hundreds of people who attended a community rally last Sunday in Newcastle in support of offshore wind. There I saw people gathered from all quarters of our community. Novocastrians were represented from industry, business, environmentalists, blue-collar workers and other concerned citizens. Doctors for the Environment Australia's Ben Ewald spoke about the effects of climate change on our health. He said:

'Burning coal is the principal cause of climate change and it's a health priority to get coal out of our electricity system as soon as possible and building wind farms is really the only pathway to get there.'

Business Hunter chief executive, Bob Hawes, spoke about the support from the business community. He said:

It's a reality that coal-fired power is turning off, and we must be in a position to replace this with abundant and affordable renewable energy for business, industry and our community.

Newcastle councillor and proud Wiradjuri woman Deahnna Richardson spoke about the importance of transitioning to renewables for the Newcastle community. 'We know that the community wants this project,' she said. 'We know that we cannot continue to burn coal and ship coal out of the Port of Newcastle to the rest of the world forever, but we need to have a way forward for the workers in this community.' This is what distinguishes people in my community from many of those who like to speak about this topic. We have a lot of skin in the game, and yet we're showing leadership in this area. Councillor Richardson said: 'We can't just one day shut down those power stations and shut down those coalmines. We need to have jobs for the future.'

That was echoed by many at the rally. Jo Lynch from the Hunter Community Environment Centre said that researchers had found no causal link between wind farms and beached whales, despite what many—sadly, politically motivated—opponents of offshore wind would have you believe. Ms Lynch said that the project needed to be developed responsibly but that it was needed due to the very real threat of climate change.

Jasmine Loades and Joanna Tavita, two formidable young wharfies from the Maritime Union of Australia, spoke about their experiences working at the Port of Newcastle unloading wind turbines from ships and the job security that they hoped the offshore wind industry would bring to them and their families. 'It means more work for us and more work for the region,' Ms Tavita said.

The Albanese Labor government is fully focused on driving the transformation to renewable energies. That's why we've set ambitious but achievable policies and why we can't take our foot off the pedal when it comes to our goals. We're investing $70 million into developing a hydrogen hub in Newcastle, which will create jobs and boost Australia's renewable hydrogen industry. This is the first major agreement struck in Australia that delivers a government investment commitment to a regional hydrogen hub. The funding will build the infrastructure needed to produce up to 5½ thousand tonnes of renewable hydrogen every year. Most of the hydrogen will be used by the Orica ammonia and ammonium nitrate facility to help make their products emissions free. Hydrogen will also be made available for refuelling hydrogen buses and trucks at the hub. Construction of the facility is expected to begin in 2025 and operations to commence in 2026.

We've also committed $16 million to the New Energy Skills Hub in partnership with the University of Newcastle, and we've budgeted $2 billion for the Hydrogen Headstart Program so Australia stays in the green hydrogen game. Six applicants have now been short-listed for the program, including two from Newcastle—fantastic news for our region. The six applicants are amongst the largest renewable hydrogen projects in the world and represent a total electrolyser capacity of more than 3.5 gigawatts across various end users.

Since coming to government, we have given the safeguard mechanism teeth, requiring our biggest industrial emitters to reduce their emissions by 4.9 per cent each year. This is equivalent to taking two-thirds of all the cars off our roads by 2030. And on Sunday we released our preferred model for the New Vehicle Efficiency Standard, to ensure Australian families and businesses can choose the latest and most efficient vehicles. Our electric vehicle discount has contributed to an increase in electric car sales, from around two per cent when we came to office to close to nine per cent over the first three quarters of last year. We've funded and have commenced the rollout of our Driving the Nation charging program, which will see fast chargers approximately every 150 kays on our highways.

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. We've established the Net Zero Economy Agency, to have a laser-like focus on the economic opportunities for the regions, industries and workers at the centre of the energy transformation. We've established the National Reconstruction Fund, with targeted investment of $3 billion in renewables and low-emissions technologies. We've released the Critical Minerals Strategy and topped up the Critical Minerals Facility to the tune of $2 billion so that we can see priority investments in the minerals needed for the clean energy transformation. We've opened all funding streams for the Powering the Regions Fund and we've recapitalised the Clean Energy Finance Corporation.

We are not wasting a single moment in government. There is so much to do. We cannot go back to climate wars in this country. We cannot look back. There's an exciting future ahead for all of us.