Zali Steggall MP calls for investment in decarbonised industries

3 June 2024



Thank you, and I strongly support this motion by the member for Curtin calling on the government to commit to an urgent and comprehensive and well-funded plan to increase our international competitiveness in decarbonised industries in the race to net zero and supercharge and incentivise investment in R & D and local manufacturing. The demand for Australia's current export mix will inevitably decline and we must prepare to transition to green exports as the demand for them grows as the world decarbonises. The government in the recent budget committed some $22.7 billion to a Future Made in Australia plan. And I welcome that. It includes a minerals value-adding production tax credit, additional funding for Arena, a hydrogen production tax incentive and further funding for the soon to be established Net Zero Economy Authority. But I am critical of the remit of that authority and will seek to expand it as it only assists some 10 per cent of the workers it should be assisting. It also included funding for the Solar Sun Shop initiative of quantum computing. So we have made a start with that commitment on making Australia a renewable energy superpower. And I've met with small and big businesses across the solar battery and green metal supply chain. They've made it clear that projects and companies are at risk of going over to the US and other jurisdictions because they get more support there. There are companies in my own electorate of Warringah such as Empower Energy who are designing solar battery products. We know enhancing our storage capacity is urgently needed. 50 gigawatts of storage is urgently needed by 2030 and that can be achieved if around 30 per cent of households take up solar and batteries. So what we really need to see is a program to assist and incentivise the take-up of batteries with households that have roof top solar. In becoming a renewable energy superpower, we must ensure a just transition from the fossil fuel community, allowing our regions to thrive as well and households to save money and for consultation and benefits shared with first-nations communities. There is so much opportunity in this transition. So whilst we're making a belated start, there's still more to do to ensure that we maintain our competitive edge in the global greens race. The development of the production tax credit model for critical minerals and green hydrogen to incentivise onshore value-adding is a good start, but it could be widened to other industries. Most importantly, as the motion calls for, we need a comprehensive plan to ensure that any measure is both efficient and effective. It is critical that we invest in both the large resources and manufacturing companies where it is necessary, but also as a smaller companies, the SMEs, that have already proved their viability as well as their innovation. And ensure that they are able to also scale up and grasp those opportunities with the support of government. We need to make sure that with all of these new opportunities, that they come through and are also available to SMEs and I should say, businesses also led by women. We can do this whilst also delivering savings for households, and driving demand for the products from those industries.

We know in the US, The Inflation Reduction Act has provided some $8.8 billion in rebates for home energy efficiency and electrification projects, which is expected to save American households up to $1 billion annually. So it is disappointing that for the moment, the government has not focused on this. The Future Made in Australia Plan remains silent on household electrification and does nothing to bolster already announced initiatives. The already announced household energy upgrade fund, for example, is only as of last week, beginning to roll out its very first loans for household energy upgrades more than a year after it was first announced. So I would say to the Albanese government to be careful not to become like the Morrison Government - big on announcements, small and slow on rollout. What we need to see is quick execution of these programs so that households on the ground can take advantage of them. We know, other than quantum computing, the budget didn't really deliver on a greater plan for greater investment in research and development, and that is an area that we must address if we are going to stay competitive. Already, OECD average, we are dropping. We now are sitting at about 1.68 per cent of GDP. So Australia, we are not investing in being really that smart economy that we could be. So, we need to make sure that the government focuses on this transition. The race to net zero is on. It is a race well advanced in most economies. Australia is playing catch-up but we need to make sure that we do it in a smart way.