State-Captured Albanese Ends the Climate Wars With Gas Expansion

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Albanese Gas Expansion

The Albanese government successfully saw its Climate Change Bill 2022, the fabled piece of legislation to “end the climate wars”, passed through the upper house on Thursday, meaning the nation has legislated for a 43 percent emissions reduction on 2005 levels by 2030.

Forty three percent has been established as a floor and not a ceiling. So, the legislation is Dutton-proofed, and it leaves room for improvement, while it also makes it a statutory requirement for Australian governments to maintain a target of net zero emissions by 2050.

Federal Labor has rained on its own parade in this instance, however, as a fortnight prior to the passage of the bill, federal resources minister Madeline King announced a massive expansion of offshore oil and gas exploration.

While PM Anthony Albanese was only entertaining the Australian minerals industry at a parliamentary dinner on Monday, where he assured those gathered that the nation will continue to be a plentiful source of coal and gas, as he laid bare the shallowness of his climate rhetoric.

Taking the lead from Morrison

“The 2022 Offshore Petroleum Exploration Acreage Release has been announced today by the Australian Government, with approximately 46,758 square kilometres of new acreage available for” oil and gas exploration, the resources minister said in her 24 August statement.

King then went on to roll out the same vision that the Morrison government had been advocating, which is that gas “play a key role as a transition fuel” and that carbon capture technology be a chief means of combating emissions, with five offshore facilities currently being finalised for her approval.

Last Monday saw Albanese assure the minerals industry that while the country will be leading the world in transitioning to renewable energy, it will continue “to be a trusted and stable supplier of energy and resources to our key trading partners” and be a “reliable provider of energy”.

“You’re not just part of the transition,” the prime minister told the representatives from an industry notoriously against any such move away from fossil fuels, “you’re the foundation for the next generation of growth and jobs and industry that our nation needs to compete and succeed”.

Working for the industry

The Albanese government was so eager to lay out its fossil fuel development proposals, including the industry’s favoured solution carbon capture, that in the end it undermined any feigned victory that the passing of the climate bill could have signalled.

In taking these decisions, the PM and his cabinet have clearly indicated that Labor is just as captured by the fossil fuel industry as the Coalition, although, to their credit, they have made a greater effort to appear as if they are acting in the best interests of the constituency.

Indeed, the contradictory actions of the Albanese government show that it’s in the pocket of the fossil fuel industry, as both major Australian parties operate under state capture: a situation where all aspects of the political process are controlled by key industries, especially that of fossil fuels.

“This effectively means that elections don’t shift that institutional power,” former Greens Senator Scott Ludlum told Sydney Criminal Lawyers just before the last election.

“If you can’t use those electoral tools of reform to shift the powers of these energy incumbents or those tools are so heavily curtailed you can’t make policy change, then you can find yourself in a very dangerous place.”

In terms of the actions of the Albanese government at present, a state capture reading of these would posit that as the last federal vote indicated sizable numbers are calling for climate action, it is now necessary to at least appear to be taking such a path.

While behind closed doors, industry types are well aware that this is the process that’s taking place with the passing of climate laws that establish targets that don’t have anywhere near enough impact to stymie the crisis but do leave enough room for the industry to continue operating.

The political machine

As the nation moved towards the ballot box in May, Greens leader Adam Bandt consistently rose the fact that Labor’s climate promises have been underpinned by its commitment to greenlight 114 new coal and gas projects. And King’s recent announcements have only fortified this position.

Ludlam explained that state capture involves six channels that corporations use to assert their interests in politics, which include money, lobbying, the revolving careers door between politics and the industry, policy and research, the repurposing of institutions and public influence campaigns.

Albanese has had a long political career spanning over two decades. And it’s well known that the positions he took in his earlier days were quite progressive.

But if an MP rises to the top of a political system that’s run by corporate influence, they have no choice but to bend to the direction these forces are moving in.

Of course, Albanese would have been aware of all this well before he made it to the position of top minister.

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Paul Gregoire

Paul Gregoire is a Sydney-based journalist and writer. He's the winner of the 2021 NSW Council for Civil Liberties Award For Excellence In Civil Liberties Journalism. Prior to Sydney Criminal Lawyers®, Paul wrote for VICE and was the news editor at Sydney’s City Hub.

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