Energy and climate promise to be key issues in this weekend’s Queensland election. In one corner Labor and the Greens are promising big boosts to renewable energy, while in the other the LNP and One Nation are pledging support for a new coal power station in the north. And behind it all looms the spectre of the deeply unpopular Adani mine.
Adani causes trouble for Trad
The Labor government faces a threat in the inner seat of South Brisbane from the Greens, buoyed by recent success in the Northcote by-election in Melbourne.
Here Labor’s deputy premier, housing and planning minister Jackie Trad is working to fight off the Greens’ Amy MacMahon, with Labor’s support of the mega Adani mine causing upset amongst progressive Labor voters in the seat.
“There is no question that Adani is shaping up as one of the central issues of this election campaign,” Greens leader Richard di Natale told reporters while campaigning in the area on Wednesday.
He said voters were reiterating what the party had heard in Northcote.
“Increasingly people are saying we need a genuine alternative to politics as usual.”
South Brisbane is seen as a safe Labor seat, however. In the last election the Greens’ Jonathan Sri (now a Brisbane councillor) gained 22 per cent of votes, to Trad’s 43 per cent and LNP’s 32 per cent, and the LNP is preferencing Labor ahead of the Greens.
Anti-Adani campaigners are continuing to put pressure on Labor, though. It was reported on Thursday that the Palaszczuk government, after ruling out public funding for Adani, has been in secret negotiations to provide royalty holidays and infrastructure funding to the Adani Carmichael mine, costing taxpayers close to $500 million over five years, according to The Australian. However, this figure included $360 million in delayed (not foregone) royalty payments, and the potential $100 million upgrade of funding of council, which a council figure confirmed was just one option on the table.
Battle lines drawn on renewables
While Labor and the LNP both appear to support the Adani mine, election battle lines have been drawn on renewables.
Labor has reconfirmed support of 50 per cent renewables by 2030 target, with a commitment to create a third publicly owned power generation company – “CleanCo” – with a mandate to deliver an additional 1000 megawatts of renewable energy. The government will also spend $50 million to get started a solar thermal power station with storage, and spend $97 million upgrading 800 schools with solar and energy efficiency.
LNP leader Tim Nicholls meanwhile has said he will scrap all subsidies for renewable energy, de-amalgamate publicly owned generators and write down assets in a bid to cut energy bills by $160 a year, and up to $460 a year by 2020, he said.
He said Labor’s plan would see costs spiral, however Ms Palaszczuk said the LNP was jeopardising $20 billion of clean energy projects.
The LNP is also committing to a new coal-fired power station in the north of Queensland, which has won the support of One Nation, a party that could end up holding the balance of power in the state.
Labor has ruled the project out, however, arguing the state does not require any additional coal power.
Solar Council says put LNP last
The Australian Solar Council, which recently merged with the Energy Storage Council to become the Smart Energy Council, has been campaigning for the Liberal National Party to be put last, saying the party was a “threat” to renewable energy.
“It is a huge step… to do political advertising, but solar companies are concerned,” the council’s chief executive John Grimes said.
“Liberal National Party policies present a direct threat to jobs in Queensland’s renewables industry.”
Mr Grimes said the state LNP party was “fully backing” its federal counterpart’s attacks on the sector.
“Job opportunities in residential, commercial and large-scale renewable energy and energy storage are booming in Queensland. Queensland is experiencing a solar boom that could turn to bust if an LNP/One Nation government is elected.”
While not making a political statement, the Clean Energy Council put out a policy document, calling on parties to:
- strengthen Queensland’s links to the national electricity market
- support energy independence in fringe-of-grid areas
- promote battery energy storage for Queensland homes and businesses
ACF puts Libs and One Nation equal last
The Australian Conservation Foundation, which is campaigning for protection of the Great Barrier Reef, has similarly put the LNP last on its environmental scoreboard, followed by One Nation.
The Greens came out on top for supporting clean energy over a new coal plant, protecting trees and wildlife, vetoing the $1 billion loan to Adani and vowing to stop the mine from going ahead.
Labor was let down by its support for the Adani mine to go ahead.
Dick Smith gives tacit support to One Nation
One spanner in the works is prominent Australian Dick Smith’s large advertising spend calling for reductions in immigration levels, even though this is a federal issue.
Mr Smith’s advertisements have urged voters to support the Sustainable Australia Party (of which he is a member) or One Nation, which he has said shares his views on immigration – though we imagine the rationale for immigration reduction each party share would (hopefully) be quite different.
A key problem is that the Sustainable Australia Party, which also campaigns for renewable energy, is not registered in Queensland yet, with the party only supporting independent Dr Cameron Murray in the seat of South Brisbane.