In the aftermath of losing the unloseable election, federal Labor has been grappling with itself to discover where it went wrong and how it can deliver a new, winning message to the Australian public in three years time.
New Labor leader Anthony Albanese seems to have landed on their message of choice: coal is good, actually.
In a new interview with Nine papers The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age ahead of a tour of coal fields in regional Queensland, Albo outlined his position that while climate change is certainly worth doing something about, stopping Australia’s coal exports is not the way to do it.
“If Australia stopped exporting today there would not be less demand for coal – the coal would come from a different place,” he said.
“So it would not reduce emissions – which has to be the objective. I don’t see a contradiction between that and having a strong climate change policy.
“We’ve got to consider what the actual outcome is from any proposal, and the proposal that we immediately stop exporting coal would damage our economy and would not have any environmental benefit.”
Australia is one of the largest exporters of coal in the world, exporting around 75% of the 510 million tonnes we produced in 2017/18. It contributed $67 billion to Australia’s economy in 2018, which is incentive enough for anyone with a short-term interest in Australia’s economy. Further to that, Labor’s own review of the election found it lost votes in Queensland after being unable to say whether or not the controversial Adani coal mine would go ahead. Labor sees an opportunity to claw back a few voters while alienating a whole bunch of others.
That’s because our coal industry is literally making the planet incompatible with human life. Mining in Australia by the nation’s six biggest coal producers results in more greenhouse gas emissions each year than the entire domestic economy, contributing to 551 million tonnes of carbon dioxide being released into the atmosphere in 2018. Jeremy Moss, a professor of political philosophy at UNSW, called Australia’s mining giants “an accessory to the crime” of climate change.
As the Greens’ Adam Bandt said in October, “Without a plan to phase out coal, you don’t have a plan to address the climate crisis.”
The key word here is “plan”: no one is suggesting a sudden halt on the coal industry, which would not only tank the economy but lose the vote of every single person related to those industries.
It’s about envisioning a future for Australia which doesn’t rely on coal for economic property. There’s financial incentives here, too: a new report from the RBA found that while the coal industry is expected to grow “fairly modestly” in the next few years, demand is in part going to be shaped by how quickly counties can transition towards renewable energy sources.
It would appear that while Albo is keen to address the climate crisis – he is at least linking climate change to a worsened fire season, which seems to be more than any Coalition leader is willing to right now – he’s not keen to do so in a way that phases out coal; that is to say, he’s not looking at doing so in any real, tangible way.
Just some truly wonderful shit. Can’t see it backfiring at all.