Federal Parliament - Matters of Public Importance [21 October 2021]

21 October 2021


Dr ALY[by video link] This morning I was thinking about what I will tell my grandchildren—when I eventually get them—about my time in Parliament. I thought to myself that there would be many moments I could share with them, like the time the former Attorney-General and the Prime Minister backed in a billionaire who tried to bankrupt Western Australia. Or the time the government voted against referring the member for Pearce to the privileges committee for the first time in the history of parliament. Or the time that the Prime Minister cuddled a precious lump of coal in the chamber. Or, indeed, the moment that we're having right now with a government that has dithered and dathered on an energy emissions policy for eight long years, even in the face of mounting evidence of the economic benefits of net zero emissions and an industry that is increasingly more frustrated by a lack of political action.

The Prime Minister might rely on miracles, but the WA resources sector does not. Just this week, Rio Tinto announced it would accelerate its transition to decarbonisation by moving its iron ore mines to run on renewables, and they've invested $10 billion to get there. Mitsubishi Australia has committed to net zero by 2050, as has BHP. The WA Chamber of Commerce and Industry and the WA Chamber of Minerals and Energy have called for net zero emissions by 2050. The resources industry is racing towards net zero, but the PM and the Minister for Resources and Water are distracted by internal party politics.

Australia, particularly Western Australia, has a lot to offer the world in renewables, in hydrogen, in lithium and in rare minerals. We've got Greenbushes, in the south-west, the largest hard-rock lithium mine in the world. Mount Weld in Laverton has the highest-grade rare earth deposits. Nickel processing in Kwinana by BHP Nickel West produces enough nickel to make 700,000 electric-vehicle batteries. And, right here in the northern suburbs, ClearVue Technologies has developed solar-panelled glass that has the capacity to revolutionise the building industry. But every time I speak to anyone in the resources sector, or anyone conducting world-leading research into renewables, I hear the same story. Their ability to capitalise on Australia's technical expertise, our natural deposits and our ingenuity is stymied by the failure of this government to deliver a national policy on energy and emissions. Yet the Clean Energy Council has just said that we as a nation have the capability and capacity to reach 44.5 per cent cuts to emissions by 2030.

This isn't a matter of ideology. What members opposite believe or don't believe about climate change is beside the point. This is about Australia's future prosperity for our children, for our grandchildren—when we eventually get them—and for generations to come. This is about the blind denial of a reality that is staring us all right in the face, a reality where the market and the industry is taking the lead on decarbonisation and emissions reductions because this government and this minister for resources refuse to.

I dream about grandchildren, but now is not the time to dream about miracles. It's not the time to procrastinate. Now is the time for quite a harsh reality check. That means getting on board the renewables train and acting with conviction. That's what the resources sector is doing. They're not just getting on that train—they have had to build the tracks. They have had to build the train and the signals, and now they're having to drive that train as well. They're having to do all the heavy lifting and the hard yards in the absence of political will, stymied by this government that could pave the way for a prosperous Australia and a prosperous future. The minister for resources refuses to hop on that train. He refuses to get on board. The Prime Minister refuses to hop on that train. I say that, if they're refusing to hop on that train, they should get out of the way, because the train's coming.