I thank the member for Curtin for this motion. Like her, I too want to see Australia be an abundant source of renewable energy. Making the transition away from fossil fuels towards renewable energy is a non-negotiable for Australia to play its part in reducing the impact of climate change, and I support the shift. But, if Australia wants to increase international competitiveness in decarbonised industries, we must not leave regional communities behind. It is, after all, regional communities, communities in renewable energy zones, who will be home to the batteries, solar, wind and hydro. But, right now, many of these regional communities are feeling like their needs and aspirations are being ignored by international companies seeking to make a profit off Australian resources.

Take the communities of the Strathbogie Shire in my electorate for example. These communities have long-term energy security issues. In fact, many communities in Strathbogie Shire experienced up to 11 power outages between November 2023 and February 2024. They’re on the edge of the grid, and their energy security is, frankly, appalling. These same communities are at the forefront of a renewable energy project proposal of wind turbines and transmission lines that are being touted as a part of the solution to keeping the nation’s lights on—a proposal led by an internationally owned company. But this project, if it goes ahead, won’t keep the lights on in Strathbogie. It won’t offer any change to the energy security in the towns in which it would exist. So you can understand why communities would have little regard for a proposal which would impact on their beautiful landscape with no change to their energy situation.

The shift to renewable energy presents a moment for us—really a moment that is as consequential for our nation as the building of the original Snowy Hydro scheme. But, right now, we’re failing to realise this potential for regional Australia. There are communities like Strathbogie right across the nation. Where overseas companies are proposing significant infrastructure changes that would create private profits, these communities are experiencing record housing and childcare shortages, potholed roads and hardly any public transport. Therefore, governments, investors and industry must start joining the dots. If we want to achieve a clean economy, we must show the communities who will get us there what it could look like—what it could look like for them.

A decarbonised economy can be the next gold rush for regional and rural Australia, but only if we get it right. There are already some good examples of what could happen in regional communities. Golden Plains Wind Farm in Victoria, for example, offsets electricity costs for households that live within three kilometres of a turbine. The Sapphire Wind Farm in New England powers 115,000 homes, has generated 150 jobs and was built with a $7.5 million co-investment raised by local people. These locals are now receiving dividends.

These examples should be the norm, not the outliers, so I want to work with government to translate these community aspirations into legislative change. The government have set up the Net Zero Economy Authority as a key step towards ensuring Australia’s industries and regions decarbonise and support communities through these changes. But right now that legislation is really only supporting communities transitioning out of fossil fuel industries, not those transitioning into renewable energy generation and storage for the first time.

It’s why I’m seeking to amend the Net Zero Economy Authority Bill, to give communities pathways to negotiate tangible, touchable, long-term benefit. Things like community benefit plans, so renewable energy companies must listen to and work with communities to identify what they want to see and then put some of their profits back into those regional communities. It could be skilled jobs, childcare services, affordable housing, health services, roads, bridges, telecommunications services.

My amendments also allow the authority to set up local energy hubs, trusted shopfronts which facilitate community understanding of what these developers are proposing and why. These trusted, neutral advisors could communicate locally informed expectations to industry about how the community would like to be engaged and how they will see benefit.

These amendments offer practical ways to connect the industries who will build the wind turbines, solar panels, hydro facilities and transmission lines for a decarbonised economy and the communities that will inevitably host all of that infrastructure. It is well past time that governments start listening to and supporting all regional communities at the centre of this massive transmission transformation.

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