The year 2015 will be seen in retrospect as the year of step-change for solar and renewables more generally. 2013 marked the year that more renewables were deployed globally than fossil fuels. In 2014 a Saudi-government backed conglomerate funded by their oil profits made history in a small, but very significant way when they won a tender to supply large scale solar in neighbouring Dubai. Without any subsidies of any form, they got the project up for just 6 cents a kilowatt hour.
I begin by acknowledging the Ngunnawal people, the traditional owners of the land on which we meet and pay my respects to their elders past and present. In doing so I condemn in the strongest terms the Prime Minister’s decision last year to slash $500m from Aboriginal programmes and his decision to back Western Australian Colin Barnett in closing remote communities in WA, claiming they are a ‘lifestyle choice’. This funding must be restored in this year’s budget. After so long in politics working for the apology, working towards reconciliation, recognition in the Constitution; it is very clear to me that if we are genuine about reconciliation, closing the gap and respecting Aboriginal connection to country, then Australia’s history of forced dispossession must not be repeated. National stories only mean something if they are backed by consistent, philosophical action. That is what it will take to get the recognition in the Constitution that we need for Australia’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.