As the dust settles on last week’s leadership spill, a new cabinet has been sworn in. It was a crazy week, and I dare say very few would have expected the outcome.
I’ve made no secret of the fact that I backed Michael McCormack to retain his position as leader. Michael continues to be a champion for regional Australia. I have always found him a man of integrity and honesty. I think the spill was ill timed, given we are in the middle of a pandemic. The people of regional Australia expect us to be fighting for their interests, not focussed on ourselves.
However, there were those in the party room that believed their electorates would be better served under a new leader. And a primary driver of this thinking is our approach to energy and climate change.
In 2019, Queensland decided the election in favour of the Coalition, and in part we have Bob Brown’s climate convoy to thank for the swing against Labor. People in northern NSW and Queensland, working in industries such as coal and mining want to know that their livelihoods are secure. You can hardly blame their political representatives for going into bat for them.
But northern NSW and Queensland are not Victoria; they are not Mallee. Most people in Mallee don’t share the same anxieties about losing their jobs in a transition away from fossil fuels. Many are more anxious about what a drier climate could mean for their river or their farm. And many are optimistic about the benefits of our emerging renewables industry.
Mallee locals want affordable, reliable energy, but they also want to see a clearly defined policy direction for reducing emissions and meeting our international obligations.
I want the same, and I want to support the growth of our renewable energy industry to foster innovation and economic growth in our region. But I also want to be sure that we can deliver whatever we promise.
In my eyes, we need a clear plan to achieve net zero before committing to the target. Innovative technologies need to be our focus, and this should include a mature discussion around nuclear energy. We need to implement the right policy settings to foster technology driven solutions that will secure our Nation’s future.