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A work in progress: Green jobs are not emerging as quickly as we’d been led to believe

Friday, 01 December 2017

Green jobs were touted as one of the benefits of the new economy. Like sprouts in a freshly fertilised field, ads for “sustainability officers”, “wind turbine mechanics” and - if memory serves correctly - “bovine emissions supervisors” were to replace old, unfashionable occupations like digging up coal.

In an attempt to hasten their germination, Kevin Rudd threw $79.6 million of taxpayers’ money at a green-job training program in 2009.

The National Green Jobs Corps was announced by Jason Clare, Rudd’s parliamentary secretary for employment, on January 20, 2010. The program would “provide young people with accredited training that will help give them the skills that they need for jobs in the future,” Clare boasted.

The program was wound up in 2012.

As for the jobs, it’s instructive to search the Environmental Jobs Network website, one of the leading specialists in green employment. When we looked, there was any full-time job paying between $60,000 to $100,000 anywhere in Queensland:  a “senior grazing support officer” at a not-for-profit community organisation in Burdekin.

The Menzies Research Centre’s latest report, Power Off Power On: Rebooting the National Energy Market, exposes the myth of green jobs.

As it turns out, of the relatively few created by green technology, many were only temporary.

Full-time jobs in renewable energy schemes peaked at 19,220 in 2012. Last year they had declined 42 per cent to 11,150.

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“Renewable technologies are typically considered low operating cost technologies,” the report says. This is because green jobs in the energy sector mostly involved installing equipment. After that, the jobs disappear.

Manufacturing or designing green energy equipment was not an option, the report noted, because Australia is too far away from the largest markets.

The absence of employers did not mean, however, that green energy was cheaper. As the report points out, renewable green energy is still heavily reliant on subsidies.

Paradoxically, some state-government policies actually prevent economic activity that generates reliable, long-term full-time work.

Moratoriums on gas extraction in New South Wales and Victoria, for example, “result in higher gas prices, reduce investment and job creation, and decrease state government tax and royalty revenue”. - Fred Pawle

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