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Budgets tell us a lot about a Government’s priorities and vision: The West Australian

Most Australians are far too focused on keeping their own household budget in the black to be too concerned about the state of the Federal books, except where it directly affects them. But understanding the Federal Budget is important and has implications for every Australian, beyond how much will be credited to your electricity account this quarter, and for our nation’s status globally.

The Budget, writes Nyungar-Nyiyaparli-Yamatji woman Emma Garlett, affects jobs and the direction and position of public policy. It is an opportunity for the Government to clearly state its priorities for the future.

There’s a lot at stake, and Budget decisions are more important than ever.

One of the key areas of investment in this year’s Budget is clean energy and the transition to net zero.

Treasurer Jim Chalmers said achieving the 2050 target would be “the biggest transformation in the global economy since the Industrial Revolution.”

Through Labor’s flagship Future Made in Australia policy, billions in tax credits are available for green hydrogen producers and critical mineral miners.

But unfortunately, Indigenous groups are being left behind and are at risk of being cut out of this important transition.

First Nations Clean Energy Network co-chair Karrina Nolan said Indigenous people have been “stripped from the equation”.

“First Nations participation in and benefits arising from the energy transition was unapologetically ignored.”

“Focusing funding on industry subsidies and incentives and building more layers of government, the Budget falls devastatingly short in addressing the urgent and long-term energy security needs of First Nations,” she said.

“Simply, there is nothing in the Federal Budget for First Nations in the clean energy transition”.

That’s despite the fact that, as Ms Nolan points out, more than 60% of Australia’s critical minerals and hydrogen projects are on land or sea where First Nations groups have legal interests.

Indigenous groups must have buy-in to reach our net zero goal and achieve our ambition to be a renewable energy superpower.

Cultural heritage, legal rights, and economic opportunities must be protected. At the moment, this is simply not happening.

The budget includes some good things, including housing initiatives, which, if successful, should help close the gap.

Overcrowding and the generally poor state of housing available to Indigenous people, particularly in the Northern Territory, have long contributed to Indigenous people enduring substandard living conditions.

Unfortunately, the suicide rate for First Nations people is more than double that of non-Indigenous Australians. This is being addressed with money to support suicide prevention as well as a further focus on health and wellbeing.

Other positive initiatives include more funding for the Clontarf Foundation’s school engagement programs, money for prison-to-employment justice programs, Aboriginal legal services, and family violence prevention services. Other initiatives will focus on keeping families strong to keep kids away from out-of-home care.

All of these are welcome. But keeping Indigenous people locked out of Australia’s renewable revolution is an enormous missed opportunity.


This op ed by Emma Garlett was first published in The West Australian