COVID-19 and the State Economy

Given the impact that COVID-19 has had on our economy, today Abigail moved a motion recognising that to tackle this crisis we have to move beyond austerity and begin a just-transition to a renewable driven future.

Ms ABIGAIL BOYD (16:46:07): I move:

(1)That this House notes that:

(a)the COVID-19 crisis has caused significant disruption to the people of New South Wales as well as to the economy;

(b)we are in a climate crisis and the continued global extraction of fossil fuels is one of the primary contributors to the climate crisis; and

(c)prior to the COVID-19 crisis, more than 13 per cent of the New South Wales population were estimated to be living in poverty.

(2)That this House affirms that:

(a)the Government has a responsibility to ensure that the actions it takes now to address the COVID-19 economic crisis do not contribute to a worsening of the climate crisis or a worsening of economic inequality in New South Wales;

(b)the approval of new coal and gas projects are actions that are inconsistent with action to prevent a worsening of the climate crisis;

(c)planning for our economic recovery from COVID-19 should, as far as possible, be designed to simultaneously address the climate crisis while also reducing economic inequality;

(d) government investment in the renewable energy industry and sustainable infrastructure has the potential to create thousands of jobs in New South Wales; and

(e)from the perspective of stimulating the economy as well as for the purposes of lessening economic inequality, where additional government revenue is required to be raised, it should be raised from those in our society most able to afford it, and not by cutting wages or benefits to those least able to afford it.

(3)That this House calls on the Government to:

(a)prioritise the ongoing wellbeing of the people in New South Wales in all of their COVID-19 recovery efforts; and

(b)ensure the future prosperity of New South Wales by prioritising urgent investment in and development of sustainable infrastructure and renewable energy.

We are in the middle of a global pandemic and it is a crisis that we must respond to. The climate crisis did not stop being a crisis just because we have a second crisis to deal with. We are still in the middle of a climate crisis and we still have to urgently address the challenge. Bubbling along in the background of both the climate crisis and the COVID-19 crisis is a growing jobs and economic inequality crisis. Climate, COVID-19 and economic inequality are three distinct but connected crises presenting a unique challenge for policymakers as well as for economic theorists. After the Great Depression the United States was faced with interconnected crises: firstly, a jobs and productivity crisis with unprecedented numbers of people needing work; and, secondly, widespread poverty and the need to urgently provide government services to record numbers of people to lift living standards across the country.

The United States developed the New Deal, and through a period of significant government investment and nation‑building public infrastructure it was able to turn its economy and society around, leaving it with a bolstered welfare state and national improvements that lasted decades. The Green New Deal takes that same concept; it takes the multiple crises we are facing and proposes a period of massive government investment to marry up the solutions to all of those crises. With government investing in nation-building and planet-saving projects now, we can not only put more people in jobs and stimulate the economy but also create the much‑needed green infrastructure to decarbonise our economy. With that investment we rapidly transition to a greener economy not only with hundreds of thousands of new jobs in renewable energy and other stereotypical green jobs but also in other low-emissions jobs in industries like education, health, aged care and the arts and creative industries.

Economic recovery from the COVID crisis cannot be used as an excuse to push forward the interests of big business and the wealthy. It cannot be used as an excuse to pretend that climate change—the biggest threat to our survival on this planet—is no longer of concern. We could create jobs in a whole range of undesirable, outdated and toxic industries, but thankfully we have a choice. Just as we moved from fax machines to emails—and we did not stubbornly keep creating more jobs in the fax machine industry—we can move from fossil fuel extraction to renewables without creating more jobs in industries that are outdated and actively harmful to our long-term prosperity and wellbeing.

Now is the time to make hard choices, as we heard from the Government yesterday. The hardest choice of all for this Government to make, and a choice that it must make, is to turn its back on the fossil fuel companies that help fund its campaigns and pulls its strings. Our State needs real leadership and vision. I does not need a return to business as usual, but a real plan to provide meaningful, secure, well-paid jobs in the public sector while providing for and increasing the wellbeing of everybody in our society. I commend the motion to the House.

Read the full transcript on Hansard here.

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