As Australians face a second wave of coronavirus outbreaks, thoughts of recovery seem a long way off. But 1 million jobs have been lost across the country, with young people some of the hardest hit, so we need a plan to get Australians back to work.
Our state and federal governments have a crucial role to play here, with targeted investments and interventions. But what if we could invest now in projects that will get our country back to work, secure our energy supply and address long-term economic and climate risks?
New modelling from economics advisory firm Alphabeta shows that targeted investment in big ticket infrastructure projects such as large-scale renewable energy, public transport and commercial and residential energy efficiency retrofits could get up to 76,000 Australians into work quickly. More than 40 per cent of the jobs identified are in regional areas.
We're talking job creation, starting right away, in roles that will need minimal training and reskilling. And what's more, they will help to create a better future - cheaper electricity, more comfortable homes and, crucially, address the challenges of climate change.
As someone who has worked in the Latrobe Valley coal-fired power industry for decades, the need for investment in large-scale renewables is made even more acute when you take into account Australia's ageing coal power infrastructure.
Gippsland's mighty coal energy generators, which have powered Victoria for half a century, are nearing the end of their utility lifespan. Yallourn will close in the next few years. We're facing big job losses.
The Latrobe Valley power workforce needs investment and policy that will fast-track our next big industry as a renewable energy powerhouse. This would see an immediate economic benefit, putting cash back into the area and creating hundreds of jobs for the skilled, energy-literate workforce we have in the region.
What's more, investing in renewables would put Victoria and Australia on the path to net-zero emissions, protecting our economy from the future shocks we can expect from climate change.
The projects are here in regional Australia and the will is here, the infrastructure is here. Now we need the green light from our federal and state governments to create the renewable energy job opportunities that will not just put our country back on track, but put it on a track to a better future.
Chris Barfoot worked in the Latrobe Valley coal industry for over 30 years, and is Project Officer for Latrobe Community Power Hub.