Anthony Albanese denounces ‘lazy cynicism’ of Nationals in appeal to NSW coal country | Australia news

Anthony Albanese will travel to New South Wales coal country over the weekend in an effort to persuade regional Australians that net zero by 2050 means opportunity for blue-collar workers and for farmers.

In an address to the country Labor conference in Singleton on Saturday, the Labor leader will blast the Nationals for engaging in “lazy cynicism” and for selling out regional communities by opposing action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Federal Nationals have been out since Labor announced it would adopt the mid-century net zero target, claiming that shift would spell the death of agriculture. But a former deputy leader of the NSW Nationals, Niall Blair, said this week the target Labor adopted would provide a great opportunity for the agricultural sector in Australia to diversify and thrive.

Albanese will tell Saturday’s conference the global community wants Australia to reduce emissions, but it is not demanding Australia stop exporting coal. “In fact, the global steel and aluminium industries – all needed to build solar panels and wind towers – will continue to demand high-quality Australian coal for decades to come”.

Labor suffered negative swings in the Hunter Valley region during last year’s election because of a backlash in coal communities to the party’s climate policies. Albanese will say coal will remain part of such regional economies, but also point out regional economies are increasingly diversified. “The Hunter doesn’t have all its eggs in the coal basket,” Albanese will say.

“Contrary to Nationals’ rhetoric, regional Australia is more than resources alone. Look around you. The mighty Hunter is Australia’s largest regional economy, with an output of more than $47bn each year”.

“Could you imagine Australia without Hunter wine? Could you imagine horse-racing without Hunter thoroughbreds? Down the road we have the University of Newcastle. Up the road, the University of New England. Two of the jewels of our tertiary sector.

“To ignore the diversity of regional Australia makes no sense.”

Albanese will also argue new technologies will create new jobs. “With the development of an Australian hydrogen industry, regional Australia would be a natural home for expanded industries in aluminium, steel, silicon and ammonia.”

He will say there are huge opportunities in regional Australia to contribute to the abatement task and gain new incomes streams through carbon farming. “Australia has the potential to capture 1bn tonnes of carbon dioxide a year, generating a new source of income for our farmers in the process.”

Albanese will also nominate forestry and rare earths as blue-collar regional industries that will continue through the transition to decarbonisation.

“Just as coal and iron ore fuelled the industrial economies of the 20th century, [rare earth and forestry] will fuel the clean energy economies of the 21st,” the Labor leader will say.

“If we leave it to the Nationals, we will drift back towards the 19th century. They would rather cling to yesterday and run scare campaigns than embrace the opportunities of tomorrow.

“This lazy cynicism is shameful. They sell out their own communities and our full potential as a nation. To deny energy alternatives as the Nationals do is to rob regional communities of their future”.

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