Project Description

Reading Time: 9 mins

Author: Robert Watson

Keywords: New Labor Government, renewable energy CO2, fossil fuel, carbon offsets


A big factor helping the Labor Party win government in May last year was their advocacy for improved policies to help relieve global warming and climate change in general. There were of course other reasons people voted for a change, including the establishment of an effective federal integrity commission, gender wage equality, fairer wages for low-paid workers, and, because they weren’t the Morrison government! It seems fair to assume that many of those people changing their vote from Morrison’s Liberals to either Labor, the Greens or an independent were more concerned with one or other of my first two reasons Labor was elected – climate change and getting rid of Morrison.

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese has already served more than 10% of the electoral term, and from a rapid start, things might already be starting to ‘slow down’. There is more ‘political speak’ lately and less direct answers to difficult questions.

Unlike most of the former Coalition Government members, there’s no reason to believe there is any scepticism in the Labor Government about the reality of climate change. Fortunately, Labor is devoid of members like Angus Taylor, Keith Pitt and Matt Canavan, who are either climate change sceptics or in the case of at least one, trying to protect family financial interests. So, the question is, why is it so difficult for governments to stand up to and impose their will on the fossil fuel industry?

The ‘miners’ are merely exploiting the minerals, oil and gas that was already here and that they had absolutely nothing to do with creating. Those raw materials belong to all Australians. However, when one compares the royalties and excise paid by the mining companies from which all Australians get some benefit, to the dividends, share issues and bonuses received by those lucky enough to be shareholders, there is no real equity.

Instead of being grateful for their ride along the golden road to easy and immense wealth based on the exploitation of our raw materials, the mining companies push for more and more in the form of subsidies and tax breaks and lobby to share less of the wealth with Australians at large.


On one hand the Albanese Labor government fulfills an election promise by legislating a new increased emissions reduction target, while on the other quietly condoning the expansion of the fossil fuel sector. Unless Labor knows something that even the climate scientists have missed, how do they expect to lower emissions and start helping to cool the planet while encouraging even more exploitation of fossil fuel, without doubt the single biggest man-made contributor to global warming.

The scenario of governments trying to balance the competing interests of the climate change advocates and mining companies is not new and has led to the downfall of three prime ministers since 2007. However, the May election result heralds change and from now on governments may not be able to rule as they wish against the wishes of the community. Along with several elected minor party candidates, including the Greens and the Jacqui Lambie Network, the election of ten independent candidates to the House of Representatives and one independent candidate in the Senate illustrates the communities desire for a bigger voice in politics.

So, who is in charge – the Albanese Government or the fossil fuel mining companies? Until May this year, the miners had the running under a supportive government and very helpful ministers in Pitt and Taylor.  Moreover, the Australian political scene has started to undergo some positive changes since then. First of all, the election results indicate stronger community interest in the main issues. Secondly, a significant section of the community no longer believes the lies and propaganda from the anti-climate change lobby comprising, among others, conservative politicians such as the shadow assistant climate change and energy minister Hollie Hughes, some major mining companies, the Murdoch press and Sky, who continually back obscure ‘international studies’ stating there is no evidence of any climate emergency – some will say anything to preserve their privileged status. Thirdly, when the evidence lands in your lap in the form of bushfires, floods and droughts that burns down your house, washes away your fences and livestock and denudes what was productive land, the sceptics veiled arguments casts a blight on them all.


A crossover from fossil fuel-based power to renewable power sources will be easier than we are being told by some politicians and miners. Easier, but not necessarily easy – and costly too! Abandoning fossil fuel for renewable fuel is not a contest between business and environment. Moreover, the inevitable transition will be achieved more swiftly and at less cost if there is collaboration between all interested groups, something we have seen no evidence of to date.

In 2021 renewables accounted for more than 30% of total electricity generation, mainly from wind, solar and hydro (see chart). These three processes have been used in Australia for many years and not only do Australians have good knowledge and experience with all three, but also Australia is an ideal continent in terms of geo-position and weather to expand these technologies many times over, especially solar and wind – a fantastic outcome for Australians and the climate, not to mention the financial rewards and prospects for employing many people for those prepared to invest. The government would do well to support the renewable technologies that we know work – the ones we are good at – until the global warming trend is reversed and we are out of danger. Some of the newer technologies being trialled will doubtless prove to be good but at this stage we really don’t have time to wait for them.

Traditional energy and mining companies are not going to give up without a fight – fighting for something that they know is now on ‘life support’ and is bad for all of us.

The former Minister for Energy and Emissions Reduction in the Morrison government, and now shadow treasurer Angus Taylor was an enthusiastic supporter the continuance of fossil fuel industry exploitation using the cost argument repeatedly to discourage transition to renewable energy. Taylor’s supposed remedy was ‘the gas-led recovery’, huge public investment in the repeatedly unsuccessful technology of artificial carbon capture, and further investment in green hydrogen, another technology that if it measures up as a suitable carbon-neutral method is still many years away. The actions and policies of Taylor are indicative of the last ten years of Coalition Government, paying lip service to renewables while supporting those powerhouses like Santos and Glencore, who financially supported them.


The Labor Government is in a position to take complete charge of climate policy and direction. They have enough support with the Greens and independents in both houses to pass any necessary legislation. They have enough support in the community to intervene when and if necessary to stay on track. They have shown that they can be accommodating, which is essential because the problems we are facing with the climate crisis cannot be resolved by any one organisation acting alone. There needs to be collaboration between all Australian Governments, climate organisations and business – we have some wasted years to make up for and not much time to do it.

(First pulished September 2022 | Revised January 2023)

Essay by Robert Watson
Published 23 September 2022