While the federal Nationals were again fighting over which climate denialist would lead the party, the NSW government was announcing it would dump stamp duty on electric vehicles, subsidise new EV purchases for 25,000 new purchases, add EVs to its vehicle fleet and fund fast-charging infrastructure.
Environment Minister Matt Kean, Treasurer Dominic Perrotet and Transport Minister Andrew Constance presided over the announcement.
That came after Kean flagged another $380 million in investment in renewable energy in tomorrow’s budget as part of a 20-year commitment to build 14 gigawatts’ worth of renewables generation and storage capacity announced by him last year. And all with the support of NSW Nats’ leader John Barilaro — unsurprising given most of that massive investment is flowing into regional areas.
The contrast couldn’t have been clearer between Scott Morrison’s denialist outfit in Canberra and a NSW government effortlessly pursuing a net zero 2050 target and a 35% reduction target by 2030 — far and above the federal government’s miserable target. In NSW, the politics of climate action aren’t divisive and toxic, but positive for governments. Even the Greens lauded last year’s energy package as a good first step.
It’s not as if coal seats aren’t in play in NSW. The Upper Hunter byelection was dominated by coal and climate. But the government gets on with the transition to renewables and embraces the political benefits that flow from pumping renewables investment into regional communities.
The difference with the federal government is the Queensland LNP. The extent to which the LNP is a toxic political rump that poisons the whole of politics in Australia is rarely acknowledged. The LNP is a party that thinks nothing of doing preference deals with far-right parties like One Nation, that continues to collaborate with Clive Palmer even as the billionaire has run his own party against it, that tolerated the antics of George Christensen for years, and quite happily undermined its own female state parliamentary leader.
And it is the most aggressively climate denialist party in Australia in the most emissions-intensive state economy. It went to the last Queensland election promising to scrap Queensland’s emissions abatement targets.
It is mostly LNP members of the Nationals — along with malcontents like Bridget “sports rorts” McKenzie — who were behind this latest, successful tilt by Barnaby Joyce to seize back the leadership of the party. Joyce might now be a NSW MP and hail from Tamworth but he started his political life in the Queensland Nationals and remains their once and future king.
Joyce and his subfaction of denialists and reactionaries exert wildly disproportionate influence over climate policy — retarding serious action and making Australia an international climate pariah — because of the Liberal Party’s reliance on the Nationals. The terms of that reliance remain secret, despite the undemocratic consequence that majority parliamentary support for greater climate action via most of Labor, the minor parties apart from One Nation, and moderate Liberals, is thwarted.
The deadlock is thus less about who gets to make a fool of themselves as deputy prime minister than about something altogether more serious: the lack of any meaningful action on climate at the national level, when the policies to deliver that action — and the politics to support them — are on clear display in NSW.