INVESTING IN THE ILLAWARRA FOR THE FUTURE

Ms BIRD (Cunningham) (10:18): This week, of course, we've seen the G7 meeting take place. The leading nations of the world that met reaffirmed their commitment to net zero by 2050—except, of course, Australia. We see reports today in the media about surveys of the Australian population saying that the majority of the population also supports us committing to net zero by 2050. This is a really important context in the challenges that our nation faces. For a region like mine, which has a long history of mining and manufacturing, this is particularly important. We will, of course, continue to have a role to play in those industries, but it is important to acknowledge that, as regions like mine face the international challenges of transitioning the economy, we need to be looking at and supporting new energy and manufacturing opportunities.

In my area, the hydrogen industry has become particularly important. In recent years we've seen announcements, including about a hydrogen car manufacture proposal by H2X. We've seen Squadron Energy's new dual-fuel power station, which will have the capacity to move to full operation on clean hydrogen as supply becomes available.

We've also seen Coregas announce earlier this year that they will develop a hydrogen refuelling station for hydrogen fuel cell trucks. We, of course, also have BlueScope Steel, which is increasingly playing its role in its energy use, looking towards more renewable energy sources. It, with its production of steel, is an important component of other sectors, such as the wind farm industry. There is the potential for new businesses from research being done at the University of Wollongong in batteries and solar and retrofitting buildings for sustainability, which are all opportunities where research can translate into new business opportunities.

But this does require government policies that support the development of new energy and manufacturing capacity in regions like mine. I want to acknowledge that the government announcement in the most recent budget of $30 million for the hydrogen power plant is welcome. But we do need a broader government policy response. It's got to include local made and manufactured policies, such as the National Reconstruction Fund that Labor has announced and a future made in Australia. It's also got to include the Rewiring the Nation transformation to get the energy grid connected to the growth of renewables, the Power to the People community battery program, the electric car discount policy and very importantly announcements around the skills program to ensure local people have the skills and knowledge to take up those jobs, such as our new energy apprenticeships that we have announced. This will give young people and indeed re-training people an opportunity in those growth areas.

Watch Sharon’s speech here.