Victoria need ideas not ideology

Victoria was poised to become a global hub for clean technology with key policies in place to drive emissions reductions and attract investment in a green industrial revolution. Yet the change of government in November 2010, writes Peter Hansford, resulted in an abandonment of key climate change policies and the vision of Victoria becoming a global leader in cleantech. Victoria’s ability lead is not lost. It can be reclaimed but only if politicians are open to ideas not ideology.

First_Solar_Ohio_manufacturing_plant_Image_First_SolarIn 2010, the Victorian government released a climate change white paper which included a cleantech industry development strategy which sought to position Victoria as a top five global leader in clean, innovative technologies and climate solutions.

At the time Victoria’s cleantech sector was rapidly emerging with a number of leading firms supplying domestic and international markets.  One analysis of the cleantech sector identified that there were 1,273 firms employing 23,200 people in Victoria.

As the author of the strategy I was confident that the prospect of increasing jobs, exports and investments would excite the government to invest a small amount of money to accelerate the job creation opportunities presented.

The background work conducted identified a suite of potential action areas: Energy (particularly renewables, CCS and smart grids); Urban Planning, Design and Construction; Water; Food and Farming; Materials (including efficient materials management), Advanced Manufacturing; e-Vehicles; use of ICT and Fast Broadband; and a range of Services Industries including carbon market services, and international education.

In 2010, the Cleantech industry development strategy was complimented by:

  • a commitment to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in Victoria by at least 20% by 2020;
  • the Solar State and large scale solar feed in tariff;
  • an Electric Vehicle initiative;
  • a Clean Business Fund Initiative;
  • the Victorian Carbon Exchange (and Carbon Market Services initiatives in JFTE);
  • the Greener Government Buildings (and 1200 buildings initiatives in JFTE); and
  • Waste/recycling measures

There were critical links with measures in the ICT, Biotechnology, Innovation, Export, Regional development, Future Farming and Energy strategies and water policies.

Researchers present highly efficient solar cellsCritical to the development of the sector was the demand generated through regulatory and other climate change measures to pull through demand for solutions which leads to investment and jobs growth in Victoria. 

The small investment was to be focussed on better networking of industries needing solutions from cleantech companies, investment attraction and export market intelligence initiatives. Needless to say that rapid Cleantech industry growth would also be assisted by a carbon price and a commitment to a transparent long-term pricing mechanism and the removal of regulatory and institutional barriers (e.g. in the Australian energy market). The strategy was capable of delivering more than 3,000 high quality, well paid jobs within three years.

The Victorian state election in November 2010 resulted in an abandonment of the emission reduction target, many climate change mitigation measures and the vision of Victoria becoming a global leader in cleantech and particularly within the Asian (eastern) hemisphere which hosts the world’s largest markets for cleantech solutions.

We are told that Australia will need a diverse economy built on sustainable productivity growth, knowledge-based industries and high value goods and services. However reviewing the Victorian Government’s economic development strategy suggests that there is little support for the innovation, ideas and institutional reform needed to create jobs.

The Victorian Government believes that our brown coal resource still constitutes a strong competitive advantage in global markets and is exploring less carbon intensive uses for brown coal. It is relying on unwanted and sub-optimal transport infrastructure investments (read East West tunnel), and notwithstanding the still high Australian dollar, anticipates growth in exports from tourism and education.

Novasun-solar-water-heating-systemVictoria is the hub of Australia’s manufacturing industry. The sector is still the State’s single largest full time employer and has been a significant source of exports and investment. The manufacturing sector employs more than 300 000 people in Victoria, across industries including automotive, advanced electronics and machinery, aerospace and aviation, the defence industry, chemicals and plastics, pharmaceuticals, fabricated metals, textiles, clothing and footwear and food processing.

The likely demise of fruit processing, the car industry and components manufacturing and the retreat of the TCF and other sectors screams for a new vision for Victoria. Innovative, solution focussed industries like cleantech should be part of that vision.

As Geelong has found relying on fossil fuel intensive companies like Ford, Shell and Alcoa; whilst these multi-national companies fit the conservative, business as usual ideology they are ultimately a recipe for economic disaster.

Victoria needs to target home grown companies which can build on our skill sets and industry capabilities in research, innovation, fabrication, finance, design and engagement with Asia and take a solutions focus. Cleantech companies meets these requirements but they can only flourish when governments are open to ideas not ideology.

By Peter Hansford, member of the Macedon Ranges Sustainability Group and former senior advisor on climate change and cleantech to the Victorian government. 

TAKE ACTION:

  • Support cleantech jobs for Victoria? Sign our petition calling on Premier Napthine and Opposition Leader Daniel Andrews to scrap Ted Baillieu’s anti-wind farm laws and support renewable energy.
  • Volunteer with Yes 2 Renewables and help us build a pro-renewables movement. Only when Victorians are active will the politicians get serious about renewable energy. Email leigh.ewbank [at] foe.org.au for more information.
  • Support our work with a tax-deductible donation. Every dollar helps.
  • Connect with the Macedon Ranges Sustainability Group and Yes 2 Renewables on social media.

One thought on “Victoria need ideas not ideology

  1. Hopefully the crisis in Morwell will convince people that moving to renewable, cleantech industries is sensible and that continuing to support polluting, fossil fuel based industries is unhealthy, uneconomical and no path to the future or to creating long-term employment. The Latrobe valley could be a centre for the construction and servicing of renewable technologies across the state but given the head in the sand attitude of Dr Naptime and his fellow fossil fuel apologists, I can’t see that happening any time soon. The opposition parties should be developing practical, sensible policies that will produce long-term jobs into the future.

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