6 September 2023

I rise to support this motion which will allow the Climate Change Authority to review sectoral pathways for emissions reductions to best support Australia’s transition to net zero emissions by 2050. I thank the minister for making this motion today and establishing this particular review. Yesterday, I was really pleased to meet Greg Combet, the chair of the Net Zero Economy Agency. I’m sure that a review such as this will provide important data and information for Mr Combet and that agency.

I was very pleased to amend the Climate Change Act, when it was introduced to this House, to ensure that any measures to respond to climate change should boost economic, employment and social benefits, including for rural, remote and regional Australia. Renewable energy, and the new industries that they will unlock, could become the next gold rush or the next wool boom for regional Australia if we get it right—but only if we plan it right. So it’s really important that we see long-term, well-paid jobs being created in our local towns and new training opportunities at our local TAFEs and regional universities, and it’s really important to make sure that profits stay local instead of all flowing overseas. If this renewable energy economy is to really get traction, we need to make sure that that traction looks like legitimate rural and regional development.

I was also happy to amend that act so that the list of eligible qualifications to the Climate Change Authority would be expanded to include regional development experience. Again, this is really important if we’re to see this renewable energy transition truly deliver for rural and regional Australia. We absolutely need regional voices at that table. We need people who understand how to make renewable energy actually deliver for regional communities.

This review that’s been referred to the Climate Change Authority is a key moment to examine what a net zero emissions pathway looks like for our agriculture sector. This is really important work. Agriculture is key to our transition. I was very happy to work with the government and to see that, in the last budget, they funded sustainable agriculture facilitators—SAFs or, as I was calling them, ‘climate change agricultural extension officers’. They’re the same thing. These positions are extremely important because we need to make sure that our agriculture sector can work with people who can translate the science into practical action on our farms. We know that our farmers are keen to do this, but they need hands-on advice, and I thank the minister for agriculture for working really constructively with me on that. This review is an opportunity to look at those programs and to ensure that these sustainable agriculture facilitators are set up in a way that will enable them to succeed.

This review will look at prospective opportunities to achieve emissions reductions and at how public and private finance can support emissions pathways . Again, I’ve met with the minister many times around the work I have done on the local power plan, which is all about engaging local communities in rural and regional Australia to truly benefit, to share in the production of energy and the profits that come from that, and to make sure that we can see cheaper prices in the areas where the energy is now going to be generated. So I really urge the authority to look at locally owned renewables and the co-benefits that communities should receive as we work towards this massive technology and infrastructure transition.

I also urge the authority to consider the primacy of community engagement in the pathway to a renewable energy economy—the social licence to achieve these pathways. I was very pleased to work with Senator Pocock and to go to the minister’s office and establish terms of reference for a review into community engagement about renewable energy infrastructure projects across rural and regional Australia. The Dyer review is now open for submissions, and I urge rural and regional Australians to make submissions to that review and to participate in the roundtables that will be taking place across the renewable energy zones.

Although the Dyer review is now open for submission—and it’s critical, if we wish to ensure technology transition and emissions pathways, that we have the support of the community—in the findings of this review, we’re seeing what’s happening across parts of this nation where regional communities aren’t taken seriously. I think it’s important to remember that questions from rural and regional Australians about things like the grid or large-scale grid projects—whether they be wind, solar or hydrogen—aren’t necessarily objections. They’re legitimate questions. We will achieve this if we do it together. I urge the authority to examine the work that Mr Dyer’s review brings forward and the recommendations that come with that.

Again, I thank the minister for this review. I have a strong record in looking for practical means to engage with rural and regional Australia in our response to climate change. I’ll work closely with, and watch closely, this Climate Change Authority as it listens to the voices of rural and regional Australians.

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