Climate policy backdown will boost Labor's bush vote: Fitzgibbon

Climate policy backdown will boost Labor's bush vote: Fitzgibbon

 Labor agriculture spokesman Joel Fitzgibbon.

Labor agriculture spokesman Joel Fitzgibbon.


The Opposition must set practical emissions reduction targets to win regional seats, Hunter MP says


Senior Labor frontbencher Joel Fitzgibbon says the Opposition needs to recapture regional voters and the best way to start is by reducing the party's ambitious carbon emissions reduction goals.

Labor's agriculture spokesman said while Labor managed to hold its ground in wealthier and progressive electorates in its shock loss to the Coalition at the May 18 federal election, but it "did very badly" in many regions such as the NSW Central Coast, the Hunter, the NSW Northern Rivers, Western NSW, Central and North Queensland, and northern Tasmania.

"McKell, Wran, Carr, Hawke and Rudd had one thing in particular, in common: they all saw they could not win without a strong bush vote and had strategies to win regional seats," Mr Fitzgibbon said.

Labor's ambitious emissions targets and climate policy scared voters and drove them to the Coalition's relatively modest policy to meet the minimum requirement of the Paris agreement - a 26 per cent reduction in carbon emissions by 2030, Mr Fitzgibbon said.

"I don't believe the Coalition won because the status quo sounded appealing to voters. Rather, I believe they chose the safer of the two options on offer," he said.

"Labor needs to reach a sensible settlement on climate change. How many times are we going to let it kill us? Indeed, how many leaders do we want to lose to it?."

To shift the focus from Labor's ambitious policies, restore market confidence for energy companies, and create opportunities for public scrutiny of the government's climate change record, Labor should seek a bipartisan agreement to achieve 28pc emissions reduction, Mr Fitzgibbon believes.

"A political settlement would also restore investment confidence and for the first time in six years, we could have some downward pressure on energy prices," he said.

"The focus would then be all about actual outcomes, and the Government would finally be held to account and forced to act."

Mr Fitzgibbon said winding back Labor's ambitious climate goal to an achievable and realistic target would be welcomed by farmers and miners alike.

"Nowhere would this be more welcomed than in rural and regional Australia where the drought is biting and where coal jobs are so important," he said.

Labor is reviewing the policies it took to the election.

Ahead of the national poll, Labor committed to a $15 billion plan to cut emissions on 2005 levels by 45pc across all industries and to achieve 50pc renewable energy in national generation mix.

It said that in government it would legislate a process to place workers who are made redundant through the "inevitable" closure of coal fired power generation.

A Just Transition Authority would ensure workers who lose their job are first in line for any similar employment opportunities in the power sector through a pooled redundancy scheme.

It planned to double funding for the Clean Energy Finance Corporation, with an additional $10b over five years to increase investment in solar and wind projects, and promised $5b to upgrade energy transmission networks, $10 million for a Clean Energy Training Fund to train renewable industry workers, and to provide one thousand grants of up to $20,000 to help manufacturers reduce energy usage.

Labor also proposed significant changes on the farming front, tightening land clearing laws across the country.

However, it did not reveal how much carbon it expects to capture through this process. They have not ruled out using carbon reductions from land clearing to make up shortfalls for heavy emitting industries such as smelters or mines.

The Coalition's chief mechanism to reach its target is the $2 billion Climate Solutions Fund, which supports farmers to invest in emissions reductions and carbon sequestration.

The 'direct action' scheme, launched in 2014 with $500 million annual funding, has since been downgraded to $200m a year. It has been criticised by environment groups for its lack of funding.


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