In 2011, Australian Labor PM Julia Gillard’s Clean Energy Act tried to use market mechanisms to take climate action. Its failure underscores the fact that only public investment in climate action will do.
In June 2011, the minority Labor government led by Julia Gillard introduced world-leading climate policy. Known as the Clean Energy Act, by 2014 the policy was dead thanks to Labor’s 2013 loss to the Liberal Party’s Tony Abbott. It was the beginning of a long nine years in opposition for the Australian Labor Party (ALP), during which Australia’s emissions increased as climate disasters become more frequent and severe.
The results of the 2022 federal election in part reflect the increased importance and urgency of taking real action on climate change. Although Anthony Albanese’s Labor government has a slim majority in the lower house, the wave of support for “teal,” pro-climate independents as well as the Greens signals an electorate hungry for climate reform. Having increased their senate representation from nine to twelve, the Greens hold the balance of power in the upper house.
Despite this, moments after Albanese was sworn in as PM, his climate minister, Chris Bowen, dismissed Greens’ demands to increase the pace of decarbonizing the economy. It’s not just that Labor’s policy is unequal to the challenge facing the planet. In the context of an ongoing health crisis, rising costs of living, and increasing insecurity in jobs and housing, Labor’s refusal to back serious climate action will make the party vulnerable to the same kind of right-wing attacks that brought down the Clean Energy Act in the early 2010s.