Victoria delivers wakeup call to Coalition ‘reactionary right’ on climate, renewables


Clear, consistent and robust support for renewable energy is winning votes and feeding into the chaos gripping the federal Coalition parties while delivering rich electoral returns for Labor. Only one week after Federal Labor spelt out an ambitious vision for the renewable sector, the Federal Coalition government, deep in the grip of the ‘reactionary right’ on the issue is descending into chaos. The Victorian electorate has also sent an unequivocal message.

On Saturday, Premier Daniel Andrews won at least 52 seats in the 88-seat Legislative Assembly, while the Coalition suffered a devastating loss with an average five percent swing to Labor. In some Melbourne seats the swing was even more dramatic.

The results is that the Coalition in Victoria is assured 24 seats, with a further 10 remaining in doubt – according to the ABC’s model.

The election was a resounding confirmation that Victorians support Labor’s strong policies on supporting renewable energy and taking action on climate change, as it was one of the key aspects of Labor’s election campaign.

In the run-up to the election, the Victorian Labor government announced a massive $1.24 billion investment to push the rooftop solar deployment across the state. The Solar Homes program, officially launched mid-September, will allow 650,000 Victorian households to install a solar panel system for half price and pay the rest of the cost back over four years with an interest-free loan.

The Labor government has also announced a separate $82 million program of rebates and interest-free loans to encourage solar on rental properties.

Big solar ambitions were coupled with major battery plans. As part of its Solar Home initiative, the Victorian government announced a $40 million scheme to subsidize the installation of battery storage in 10,000 homes.

The battery scheme announcement came alongside the results of Victoria’s first renewable energy auction, which was successfully conducted under the Labor government, exceeding the output expectations by delivering 928 MW of renewable capacity.

Finally, the Victorian Labor government pledged to boost the state’s renewable energy target from 40% to 50% by 2030, noting that such a target would help deliver around $9 billion of investment and create more than 11,000 jobs over the life of the scheme.

Meanwhile, the Coalition had committed to axing the VRET, if given the opportunity, which was a point of stark contrast between the two political parties and one of the ‘reactionary’ political ideas that failed to resonate with electors in a progressive state like Victoria.

And that was before this much-publicised ‘train wreck’ interview with Frankston Liberal candidate Michael Lamb, who was skewered by Sky’s David Speers over his party’s muddled energy policy.

This weekend’s result in Victoria has caused Victorian Liberals to re-examine the party’s stance on renewable energy and climate change. Federal MP Tim Wilson said in an interview with Sky News that clear policies on “environmental stewardship” was what Victorian voters wanted.

“If anybody thinks that there’s this great public sentiment out there, that people deep-down really hate renewables and they’re hugging something like coal, I say again: ‘get real’,” Wilson told Sky News.

The Federal Coalition had previously at least been signalling to the Australian public that it was considering emissions reduction as a matter for energy policy, in its failed National Energy Guarantee policy. However, and somewhat notoriously, it was used by the Liberal Party’s ‘reactionary right’ as a trigger to end the Prime Ministership of Malcolm Turnbull. In an intriguing aside, the former PM will be speaking at the Smart Energy Council conference in Sydney next week.

The Feds have now been plunged further into minority government. After losing the former PM’s seat of Wentworth in a by-election, it today lost another member to the “sensible centre” section of the crossbench. Victorian MP Julia Banks announced today that she would be moving to the crossbenchers, in response to the “actions of the reactionary right” within the Parliamentary Liberal Party.

Instead, Banks told a near-empty House of Representatives she will support, “timely, practical, sensible decisions on matters which Australians care about.” Action on climate and the support of renewables appears to be such a matter.

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