Elvis Presley once noted that the truth is like the sun.
“You can shut it out for a time,’’ Elvis said. “But it ain’t goin’ away.’’
Just as the sun isn’t going away, neither is the potential for cheap solar energy to underpin a wave of jobs growth and prosperity across Australia in coming years.
Our nation is blessed with abundant solar and wind resources.
If we tap them efficiently, we can use cheap renewable energy to cut power bills and drive job growth across the economy. We can also develop new renewable energy industries in areas like battery production and solar technology.
But this won’t happen under the Morrison-Joyce Government.
For nearly a decade in power, the Coalition has ridiculed solar and wind power.
And despite more than 20 attempts they have failed to create a national energy policy, with each successive attempt sunk by bitter internal division.
The Coalition’s focus has been attacking renewables for short-term political gain, rather than seeking out the job opportunities that come with these technologies.
Just before the last Federal election, Prime Minister Scott Morrison, strongly backed by the Nationals, said electric vehicles would “end the weekend’’.
This was not only wrong, but short-sighted.
Australia has vast reserves of lithium and nickel. We are well placed to capitalise on the rise of EVs by increasing our lithium and nickel exports and developing a homegrown battery-manufacturing industry.
More jobs. More export revenue. More training opportunities for young people. These are the dividends for nations ready to shape change to their own interests.
Terrified of the future
Mr Morrison and Mr Joyce are not fit to cope with change. They are frightened of the present and terrified of the future.
In November, nations of the world will gather in Glasgow to press countries, including Australia, to adopt a target of net zero carbon emissions by 2050.
But Mr Morrison can’t decide whether he will attend. Up to this point he has been incapable of endorsing the modest target because of opposition from Mr Joyce and the Nationals and some in the Liberals.
Once again, Mr Morrison is failing to lead. And his Government is increasingly isolated in a world where support for renewables extends across the political spectrum.
The Business Council of Australia, which represents Australia’s richest companies, including resources companies, supports the net-zero target, as does the Australian Industry Group.
Farmers are also on board through the National Farmers Federation.
The Australian Council of Trade Unions supports the target.
So do Australia’s major trading partners including Japan, Korea, the EU, the UK and the United States.
UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson, a conservative, recently warned: “In the years to come, the only great powers will be green powers’’.
Back in Australia, Queensland Independent MP Bob Katter, by no means a political progressive, is an enthusiastic supporter of renewables.
In 2014, Bob invited me to his electorate to visit an old gold mine at Kidston, about 280 kilometres north-west of Townsville, where owner Genex was proposing to transform the site into a solar and pumped hydro power project.
Seven years later the solar farm powers 26,000 households and the pumped hydro scheme, which will use the gold mine’s old tailings dam, is under construction, with 140 workers on site this week and hundreds more on the way.
Bob Katter, like Boris Johnson, is smart enough to understand that renewable energy can provide cheap power and good, secure jobs and economic development for his community.
A decade’s worth of nothing
But after nearly a decade in power, the only thing Scott Morrison and his colleagues have given us is inertia.
Australia needs leaders mature enough to accept that while change is inevitable, the job of government is to shape change to our national interest.
A Federal Labor Government will embrace the 2050 target.
We’ll help business capitalise on lower power prices by creating a $15 billion National Reconstruction Fund to provide loans and other support for new and expanded business ventures, particularly in industries like manufacturing, defence and transport.
We’ll make electric vehicles cheaper by cutting taxes.
We will connect up to 100,000 homes to 400 community batteries around Australia, allowing households which produce solar power to store it for sale back into the grid when the sun is not shining and the wind is not blowing.
And we will establish the $20 billion Rewiring the Nation fund to fix transmission and rebuild our energy grid so it can efficiently distribute the energy from new renewable ventures.
One of the few constants in life is change. And change must be shaped.
A Labor Government will shape change in the interests of jobs while looking after our environment for this and future generations.
Anthony Albanese is the Leader of the Australian Labor Party