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Talking the Talk: Dutton dumps climate commitment, Labor speaks with forked tongue

by Rex Patrick | Jun 9, 2024 | Energy & Environment, Latest Posts

Peter Dutton’s Coalition is abandoning Australia’s climate targets while new FOI data show Labor’s fossil fuel commitments are spin. Rex Patrick explains.

Failure on Both Sides

As the saying goes, ‘If you don’t know where you’re going, any road will take you there’. And that’s the problem with Opposition Leader Peter Dutton’s announcement that the Coalition is abandoning Australia’s 2030 emissions targets.

Leaders set a direction and then guide the team there. Having an aim to point to keeps the team focussed and allows performance to be assessed against stated ambition. In this regard, Dutton’s announcement represents failure before the journey even starts.

But is Labor any better? Prime Minister Anthony Albanese has set a direction, but is doing everything not to land the goal.

The Australia Institute. Climate

We have Dutton steering a rudderless ship and Albanese at the helm of the ‘MV Disingenuous’.

Climate relief

In the week starting January 29, the Minister for Climate Change and Energy, Chris Bowen was out-and-about making climate action announcements,

The first, from Townsville on the Tuesday, was the announcement of a $70 million investment into a facility to produce 800 tonnes of green hydrogen per year to fuel over 40 heavy vehicles, ramping up to 3,000 tonnes for domestic supply, and ultimately in excess of 150,000 tonnes for export.

His second announcement, from Port Kembla on the Wednesday, was $137 million towards relining and upgrading a Blast Furnace at the local Steelworks with emission reduction technologies, and $63 million towards the purchase and commissioning of a low carbon electric arc furnace to replace the existing traditional blast furnace at the Whyalla Steelworks.

By Sunday he was announcing new vehicle efficiency standards for Australia.

Meanwhile in Japan

While Bowen was out there creating the impression Labor was serious about addressing climate change, a new FOI release reveals Resource Minister Madeleine King was in north Asia mixing with the who’s who of the gas and energy Industry in Tokyo and Seoul, advertising ‘Australia’s open for fossil fuel business’.

Bankers, gas production company’s and gas consumers all had diary slots assigned.

On the Monday, King attended a lunch event with Japan-Australia Business Co-operation Committee. In attendance was the Japan Oil, Gas and Metals National Corporation (JOGMEC), a Japanese government-affiliated organisation involved in securing a stable supply of natural resources for Japan; J-Power, one of Japan’s leading electric utility companies; and gas giant INPEX, Japan’s largest oil and gas exploration and production company, and lead proponent in one of the largest offshore gas fields in Australia.

Talking points prepared for her left little doubt in her audience’s mind as to where the Albanese Government stood on gas.

Minister King’s Talking Points (Source: FOI)

Minister King’s Talking Points (Source: FOI)

Having delivered an ‘open for business’ message she moved on to a cosy afternoon with one-on-ones with Japan Bank for International Cooperation (JBIC) and, again, JOGMEC where she re-enforced the message.

We are committed to ongoing consultation with Japan on our energy policies and to provide investor certainty”. She then talked up Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) technology, pointing out recent changes to the Sea Dumping Act which will permit the import and undersea capturing of foreign CO2 emission (should CCS one day work).

Her final meeting of the day was a half an hour meet-and-greet with the Japanese Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry, Saito Ken. Similar messaging was adopted.

Kamikaze Gas Rounds

The next day, Tuesday, the Minister held a number of bilateral meetings with Japanese energy power houses.

First trading and investment company, Mitsui & Co, then LNG Japan Corporation and its partners, followed by INPEX.

In relation to gas, and despite its CO2 emission profile, King acknowledged that “Australian LNG will be an important energy source to support Japan’s energy security and assist you to decarbonise your economy.”

Next in her diary was one of Japan’s largest natural gas utilities, Tokyo Gas Co, where she assured the company, “I’m grateful for the continued interest you have in potential projects in Australia”. Mitsubishi Corporation was the last company to have a private exchange with King that day.

She finished up the day with a 25-minute interview with the Australian Financial Review to ensure Labor’s enthusiasm for gas investment went to the right audience and wouldn’t be seen by many in the wrong audience.

On Wednesday morning she met with JERA, a joint venture between Tokyo Electric Power Company and Chubu Electric Power Company and one of the world’s largest buyers of LNG, before finally fleeing to the airport.

Korean switch

Minister King then paid a visit to the Republic of Korea where the meeting line-ups focussed more on iron ore, steel, lithium and zinc. 

But gas was not to miss out with time set aside for a private discussion with KoGas, the state-owned natural gas company primarily involved in the import, distribution, and sale of natural gas, and then SK E&S, an energy and chemical company with interest in Australia’s LNG.

Unsurprisingly, she also met with Korea’s Minister for Trade, Industry and Energy, Ahn Duk-geun. More gas positive messaging flowed. 

Our government continues to provide a stable investment environment for gas explorers and producers.” She went on to reassure the Korean Minister that the Australian Government’s regulatory settings were there to ensure adequate gas supply domestically while meeting energy supply commitments to international partners, including the ROK.”

Labor’s gas strategy

The International Energy Agency (IEA) forcefully states that the pathway to net zero by 2050 is a narrow one and requires no new oil and gas fields approval.

Yet the Labor government hasn’t taken heed of the IEA’s edict. Since coming to power, they’ve approved a number of fossil fuel projects.

Ten and rising: Albanese government new fossil fuel approvals unveiled

 

The minister’s visit to Japan and Korea shows that Labor’s appetite to support gas projects hasn’t abated.

When the Government released its Future Gas Strategy in May (cherry picking only some of the IEA’s material), the stock market reacted with gas stocks rising.

Duopoly politics

In some sense, purporting to act on climate change, and then not acting, is worse than promising to do nothing. They both achieve the same non-outcome, but the former is dishonest.

And that leads us back to the start. Neither of the two major political parties are walking-the-walk on climate action. 

The Coalition are pressing for far distant and expensive nuclear power stations, citing their use in other jurisdictions (jurisdictions without the sun or space for renewables that Australia has). Their breaking of 2030 commitment simply allows them to draw attention on a ‘need’ for nuclear to ‘rescue’ Australia from a climate emergency.

Meanwhile Labor is talking-the-talk and standing still.

It’s no wonder a large portion of the community have lost faith in the both of them.

Climate Betrayal: how backroom deals with Japan locked Australia in for decades of gas

Rex Patrick is a former Senator for South Australia and earlier a submariner in the armed forces. Best known as an anti-corruption and transparency crusader - www.transparencywarrior.com.au.

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