Zak Kirkup has finally produced a policy to jolt the electorate, writes Peter Kennedy.
The Liberal Party has been struggling to cut through the COVID-19 blanket which has effectively stolen the oxygen on debate on state election issues; that is, until now.
However, with the surprise policy undertaking to close government owned power stations at Collie by 2025 and rely on renewable sources to pick up the slack, it has breathed new life into the clean energy-climate debate.
Liberal leader Zak Kirkup has drawn on the examples of development-oriented former Liberal premiers Sir David Brand and Sir Charles Court to deflect claims that the policy is over ambitious.
He says the policy is designed to make Western Australia a world leader in energy and resources, as opposed to a state where the resource – iron ore or gas – is simply extracted and exported.
The role of the private sector will be crucial, just as it was with the opening up of the Pilbara in the 1960s when the companies developed the towns, rail, ports and other infrastructure which a cash strapped WA government could not fund itself.
Mr Kirkup has revived hopes that Oakajee north of Geraldton could be developed as a deep water port and become a “massive hydrogen export hub” to feed potentially energy hungry markets in countries such as Japan and South Korea.
He says net zero emissions will be achieved within 10 years and gas will continue to be an important part of the energy grid, all at “no added cost”.
The plan will not go down well in Collie, despite Mr Kirkup’s commitment to a $100 million fund to support the retraining of coalminers and the development of new energy jobs, and Labor will attack it for lack of detail.
Politically, it will actually help Labor’s hopes of retaining the Collie-Preston seat following the retirement of long term MP Mick Murray.
But the policy is aimed at the wider electorate, especially the tens of thousands of voters who deserted the Liberals in the 2017 election, as well as younger, more environmentally conscious voters.
Mr Kirkup has finally produced a policy to jolt the electorate.
It won’t make him premier but could help him save the furniture.