Merry Christmas, Matt Kean

If all you wanted for Christmas is climate action, then Matt Kean is your Santa Claus for 2020. Parting ways with decades of party support for the fossil fuel industry, the NSW Liberal Energy Minister has overseen the country’s most significant renewable energy legislation.

Electricity Infrastructure Investment Bill (2020), which passed NSW Parliament earlier this month, is designed “to coordinate investment in new generation, storage and network infrastructure.” It is forecast to facilitate an additional 12GW in renewable energy investment in comparison to business as usual, doubling the country’s current renewables capacity. 

But the bill is about more than just replacing coal-fired electricity with zero carbon power; it is also about energy abundance. The New England renewable energy zone (REZ) alone will match current generation capacity from coal-fired plants in the state. 

REZs will also be built in the Central-West, South West, Hunter and Illawarra. The latter two were included when the Liberals accepted Labor amendments to assist these historically coal-and-steel regions as well as mandate locally manufactured content inasmuch as possible. Greens’ amendments to fund green hydrogen development were also included.

As this collaboration suggests, the bill is also an impressive achievement in post-partisan politics. That’s the Christmas spirit!

As for his personal political ethos, in an interview with The Saturday Paper, the 37 year-old Kean recently said, “Conservatism is about conserving those things that are important, and I can’t think of anything more important than our environment.” He also says that he intends to “fly the flag for the brand of liberalism that I believed in and that I felt that my community supported.”

Kean’s biggest opponents thus far are actually not Labor or the Greens, but the Federal Liberals. Angus Taylor attacked Kean’s policies at the AFR’s Energy and Climate Summit, blaming him for taking coal-fired power offline and supposedly causing power prices to rise.

And earlier in the year, when Kean linked the Black Summer fires to climate change, Morrison absurdly claimed that most people in the Federal Cabinet wouldn’t know who the state liberal minister was. If Morrison was feeling threatened by Kean at the start of 2020, he’ll be feeling it double at year’s end.

Feature image by Charles Mouyat, Archibald finalist courtesy of Art Gallery of NSW (