Opinion: Renewable energy to impact rural jobs

By: Trevor Whittington

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WAFarmers president Trevor Whittington questions the impact of the move towards renewable energy on rural jobs and cost of living

Opinion: Renewable energy to impact rural jobs
A move towards renewable energy could cost rural jobs, WAFarmers president Trevor Whittington says

I’ve read a lot of post-election commentary over the last few weeks, most of it written by the usual suspects, many of whom think the Coalition lost because they weren’t on board with the community’s climate change views.

According to the chattering elite, Australia has voted to embrace the ideals of the enlightened progressives and we are now all champing at the bit to do more to address climate change.

Those with a preference for a soy latte have been busy reinforcing their views that the Coalition is out of step with the electorate and if they had just done more and signed up to even more ambitious emissions targets, then the teal seats would have remained blue seats.

However, because they didn’t and because Barnaby and the Nationals are a bunch of climate deniers, then they were doomed to lose and will now remain in the political wilderness until they change their ways.

I worry about how single-issue organisations like Farmers for Climate Action, along with the Greens, teal independents and the chattering elite, are misleading the community with what drives voting decisions across Australia.

The voting results across the rural seats of Australia don’t show this – the National Party lost no seats and its vote has declined only marginally.

In fact, the result for the Nationals has been very much in a steady state across the nation, with essentially no real change since the previous election. This isn’t necessarily surprising as the ALP struggles to achieve 20 per cent of the vote in many rural electorates and the Greens, with their anti-coal and gas policies, struggle to be relevant.

The Nationals performed well in Victoria, with a slight increase in its primary vote, and held in NSW and Queensland, while Labor won just two seats in regional Victoria and suffered a huge swing against it. What does that tell you about the support for their 43 per cent climate policy in a very woke state?

When one looks at the rest of Australia, the Liberals successfully held onto their rural seats in both South Australia (Barker and Grey) and Western Australia (O’Connor, Forrest and Durack) and in Tasmania, which is largely regional in nature, there has been a swing of around two per cent to the Liberals.

The Liberals are basically out of the wealthy suburbs and largely represent outer suburban and regional Australia, and guess what the number one election issue was across these electorates? It was not climate change, rather it was cost of living.

You will notice that the hard heads in the Labor Party are not as excited as the younger, more left leaning members as they know that two out of three voters did not vote for them, and the teals and Greens are eating away at their inner-city seats.

With the Nationals and Liberals locking up the bush, all eyes at the next election will be on the swinging marginals in the outer suburbs, something that will focus the Liberals on a crash or crash-through strategy with Dutton going back to basics and going hard on the cost of power and job losses related to the 43 per cent target.

As a result, the ALP’s smart right won’t be in any hurry to set any more ambitious emissions targets that will see even more pain imposed on the battlers.

Their policy of cutting emissions within eight years is the Liberals’ sleeping vote winner as it eats away at the cost of living, not to mention farmers’ cost of production.

Nowhere have we seen a frank conversation with rural people on who will pay when it comes to achieving Labor’s target.

Why? Because the climate change champions didn’t want to scare the masses with what’s coming, or worse, they live in economic fantasy land and think that there are jobs in shutting down parts of the economy.

There is work in putting up wind turbines and solar panels, but it isn’t a sustainable job.

As for hydrogen, it’s still a dream, and when it arrives its likely to become an expensive dream, too expensive to replace coal and gas in manufacturing urea or powering irrigated agriculture.

So far, Australia’s easy emissions reduction wins have been too easy. Why? Because the sleight of hand of claiming an end to land clearing as emissions reductions have all been banked.

Now it gets hard and expensive. More renewables will require a massive new rewiring of the electricity network, dirty diesel engine emission reductions will require old cars, tractors and trucks driven to the scrap yard and replaced at owners’ expense with Euro 6 engines.

New coal mines and gas projects will be forced to buy expensive offsets, which will see trees planted on farmland, destroying regional jobs, and the high cost of power will see energy-hungry regional manufacturing and irrigated agriculture being replaced by imports.

Until there is serious talk about the impact of these policies on regional jobs and agriculture, as well as the impact of having tens of thousands of windmills and solar panels covering farm land while avoiding coming out in favour of nuclear power, it is difficult to take the debate seriously.

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