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Net Zero Jobs By 2050?

Written by
10 February 2021
scott_morrison
Originally appeared in The Spectator Australia

Australian farmers will hardly sleep easy with the assurance of the President of the Australian Council of Trade Unions Michele O’Neil that ‘agriculture has more to gain from transition [to low emissions] than almost any other sector.’ 

Why farmers haven’t voluntary signed up to a net zero emissions target if they have more to gain than any almost any other sector is a question that O’Neil didn’t care to answer. Perhaps this is because Ms O’Neil has never worked on farm before. 

Or perhaps O’Neil just finds it easier to swim with the tide. 

With the big four banks, big business lobby groups, workers unions, the Labor Party, half the Liberal Party, and welfare groups such as the Australian Council of Social Service all pushing for a net zero emissions target, workers around Australia would be right to wonder if anyone speaks for them anymore. 

Last year Scott Morrison appeared genuine in his concern for the quiet Australians when he said that people who commit to net zero make a glib promise about that and they can’t look Australians in the eye and tell them what it will mean for their jobs.’ 

But just last month Morrison admitted that he would like to see Australia reach net zero emissions as quickly as possible. 

New research published today by the Institute of Public Affairs Net Zero Jobs: Analysis of the employment impact of a net zero emissions target in Australia estimates that up to 653,600 jobs would be put at risk from a net zero emissions target. 

The heaviest job losses would occur in the agricultural (306,200 jobs), heavy manufacturing (74,100 jobs), electricity supply (64,100 jobs), and coal mining (62,000 jobs) industries. 

Over the past week the Nationals have been kicking up dust about an emissions target. As Barnaby Joyce and Senator Matt Canavan pointed out in The Australian earlier this week, ‘the emissions from people living in cities have gone up during the past 30 years, but their moral guilt has been eased by sending the bill to the bush.’ 

And the bill is about to get bigger. 

Seventeen of the top 20 electorates with the highest proportion of jobs at risk from a net zero target are held by the Coalitionwith six of the top ten electorates held by members of the Nationals Party Room. 

Put another way, 73 per cent of seats in federal parliament held by the Nationals are ‘at risk’ seats in terms of job losses, compared with just 10 per cent of seats held by Liberals, and 3 per cent held by the Labor Party. 

At the same time twelve of the bottom 20 electorates with the lowest proportion of jobs at risk from a net zero emissions target are also held by the Coalition. 

This means the jobs of mainstream Australians living in the outer suburbs and regions are being offered up as a sacrifice so that the Liberals can hold onto a handful of inner-city, green-tinged seats. 

Carving the most directly affected industries out of an emissions target would not solve the problem. If it isn’t a farmer losing his job, it will be a flight attendant, or a truck driver, or an oil rig operator, or a steel cutter. One way or another, Australians will pay with their jobs and their livelihoods. This is why a net zero target is a carbon tax by stealth. 

There are some who have suggested those who lose their jobs in industries like manufacturing will find jobs in the new, green economy. But this assertion is inconsistent with recent history. 

Since 2010 five manufacturing jobs have been destroyed for every one job created in the renewables sector. 

Besides, it is not for the political class and corporate elites to decide which Australians deserve to lose their jobs and which deserve to keep them. As Labor Senator Raff Cicone astutely noted last year, ‘there is dignity in all work. 

This reflects the powerful value of egalitarianism which underpins the Australian way of life. Traditionally, Australians have believed that a banker from Sydney is no better than a steelworker from Port Kembla. But our political class seems to have become alienated from mainstream Australian values like this one. 

In a democracy, the people’s opinions are supposed to prevail over the obsessions of politicians and the bureaucracy. On this issue, the people have already spoken – once in the watershed election in 2013 of the Abbott government, and then again in 2019. 

Yet this fundamental principle is increasingly derided as base ‘populism’, a term which our betters use to mean that the people have made the wrong choice, just like with Brexit and Trump. Viewed this way, net zero is not only destructive, but contemptuous. 

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Daniel Wild

Daniel Wild is the Director of Research at the Institute of Public Affairs

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