Last week the LNP member for Longman in Queensland, Terry Young, did something few politicians do. He told the truth.
It was reported in the media that Young told a Liberal Party Room meeting that he voted in favour of Net Zero emissions by 2050, even though the people of Longman didn’t back it.
Young was reported as suggesting that those five Coalition MPs who crossed the floor to oppose the government’s proposed religious freedom laws should have put the team first.
This suggests the right of the party agreed to support Net Zero if the left supported religious freedom. The left, having got what it wanted first, simply walked away from its side of the bargain.
But Young’s airing in the open of something that is usually kept in the shadows shows that the issue of Net Zero is far from settled.
So far, the only thing that has been committed to is a broad target for Australia to reduce its emissions to zero on a net basis in 28 years’ time. True, the government has put out a plan saying it will use technology and not taxes to get there. But if and how Net Zero is implemented is still a matter of debate.
What is no longer a matter of debate, however, is who will incur the greatest costs of Net Zero. Vital Queensland industries such as mining, manufacturing, and agriculture will incur the greatest costs.
Recent analysis by the Institute of Public Affairs estimated that up to 653,600 jobs could be put at risk by a Net Zero emissions target, and that workers in regional parts of the country are more than three times as likely to lose their jobs than workers in metropolitan areas.
Up to six per cent (or around 3,600) of jobs in Terry Young’s seat of Longman would be at direct risk. Job losses for Queenslanders further north and west are even more significant. Up to a quarter of jobs in the seat of Flynn, which includes the major port of Gladstone, and a fifth of jobs in Maranoa could be destroyed as a direct consequence of Net Zero.
On top of the direct job losses will be indirect job losses in retail, pubs, and restaurants that depend on the consumer spending from miners, farmers, and factory workers.
The reality that Net Zero will inevitably cost jobs is now recognised across the political spectrum.
Writing for the Australian Financial Review earlier this week, Tony Wood of the Grattan Institute acknowledged that, ‘Whoever is in government cannot deliver their emissions reduction targets without an impact on emissions-intensive industries and workers.’
Wood went on to note that coal-fired power generation is under threat ‘because of our bipartisian support to Net Zero and the growth in renewables’ with the growth in renewables driven by state government policy, not markets.
The United Kingdom, which is much further down the road of Net Zero, having it passed legislation in mid-2019, provides an indication of the extent to which the lives of ordinary Australians will be made worse by emissions reduction requires.
In order to meet Net Zero by 2050 the UK has already banned the sale of new petrol and diesel cars by the year 2030, banned the use of gas boilers in newly-built homes from the year 2025, and is removing farmland from farmers to plant trees instead of growing food, grain, and crops.
The experience of the UK shows how ‘taking action on climate change’ just means taking away the jobs, hobbies, and cars of the working and middle classes who, it should be added, emit far less than their high-income counterparts. According to a report of the UK Treasury, the ‘highest income households emit around three times as much carbon as the lowest income households’.
Terry Young in his maiden speech to parliament in 2019 identified that one of the great things about Longman ‘is it has many people that are commonly known as the silent majority’.
These are Menzies’ forgotten people, Howard’s battlers, and more recently Morrison’s quiet Australians, who kept the Coalition in office at the 2019 election.
But now, with the Coalition government having adopted Labor’s climate policy from 2019, with all of its intended economic and humanitarian damage, it’s the noisy, inner-city minority who again have the upper hand.
Daniel Wild is Director of Research at the Institute of Public Affairs
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