Leading article Australia

Jobs not RET

28 January 2017

9:00 AM

28 January 2017

9:00 AM

The Liberal party should stand for business, but it doesn’t. It should stand for jobs, but it doesn’t. It should stand for maintaining and sustaining energy infrastructure supporting businesses and jobs, but it doesn’t.

Instead it stands for a Renewable Energy Target, an arbitrary heavy cosh of a policy instrument that helps Green trendies sleep soundly beneath taxpayer-subsidised solar panels while the rest of the economy goes to hell in a handbasket.

In 2015, when Tony Abbott was still prime minister, the Senate passed a new RET: by 2020, 23.5 per cent of Australia’s energy would be derived from renewable energy sources like solar and wind. That figure was reached by protracted negotiation and compromise with a Senate not half as feral as the one Malcolm Turnbull’s double dissolution produced last July. Mr Abbott may have staved off a worse result, but the result was still artificial and unrealistic targets and deadlines.

Greenies say a firmly-defined RET kicked off an investment boom in solar, wind and other renewables, both in R&D and direct infrastructure.They especially cheered when South Australia closed down the last of its coal-fired power stations, making it a state whose generation capacity is now fully renewable. That Croweater energy prices went through the roof, and the state’s renewable-driven grid melted down when the interconnector with Victoria crashed in September storms, doesn’t matter to them. All they care about is evil fossil fuels being banished, and welcome other states going the way of South Australia.

Who then cares about the battling households, the struggling small businesses, and the failing power-hungry heavy industries that depend utterly on affordable energy? Not Labor, the Greens nor the Gaia-worshipping environmental movement. Indeed, in the increasingly likely event it regains power after the next election, Labor is talking about doubling the RET for 2030, effectively driving coal and other fossil fuels off the energy map.

While Mr Turnbull and Energy minister Josh Frydenberg say that the current RET is manageable and affordable, the harsh reality is they are supporting an anti-business, anti-jobs and economically-irrational policy that goes comprehensively against the Liberal pro-free enterprise grain. In defending the RET, Mr Frydenberg compares the $63 per household impact of the RET on energy bills to the outrageous 50 per cent Labor target. But in doing so Mr Frydenberg misses one stark point: the impact of any RET on wealth-creating businesses, especially manufacturing, is proportionally far greater than it is on households, and can be the difference between big-employing plants staying in business or shutting up shop. In calling for the Coalition to abandon the RET altogether, Mr Abbott belatedly but wisely grasped the wider economic and jobs implications that Mr Turnbull won’t accept, and Mr Frydenberg can’t out of loyalty to his boss. Sadly, because it was Mr Abbott who suggested ditching the RET, Mr Turnbull will stubbornly dig in. But if the PM has any political nous, he’ll see abandoning an artificial, ideological construct beloved of the trendy Left will do the government’s survival prospects more good than harm.

Struggling for direction, traction and coherence, the Coalition can’t afford to be Labor-lite, more concerned about keeping happy constituencies that will never vote for it in a pink fit. Setting the RET aside would not only take on the government’s tormentors on the Left, it would tell disaffected Liberals and conservative battlers flirting with One Nation and other alternative – including Cory Bernardi’s potential breakaway movement – that the Coalition government puts their jobs and keeping businesses competitive ahead of appeasing the Gaia-worshippers.

Ditching the RET would send a resounding message to centre-right voters that this government is of them, and for them. While it’s right to promote energy security through diverse energy sources, including renewables, we need more jobs, not the RET.


Our congratulations to Speccie reader Hugh Northam who, along with others no doubt, nominated the three QUT students and Tony Morris QC to be the Australian’s Australians of the Year. Hugh suggests we follow suit, awarding an inaugural Speccie AotY to the same mob. We are delighted to oblige. Voilà! And while we’re at it, let’s throw in the Oz’s editorial team and cartoonist Bill Leak, all of whom have fought so hard for free speech for all Australians. 18C is an insidious threat to the freedoms of all Australians, especially minorities, and must be ditched.

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