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Nuclear energy- the energy culture wars final boss

In the complex realm of Australian energy policy, the debate over nuclear energy has emerged as the final boss in the ongoing energy culture wars. The recent resurgence of interest in nuclear, spearheaded in Parliament by Peter Dutton and the Liberal Party, has sparked a heated discussion about the nation's energy future. However, the crux of the matter lies not in partisan debate but rather in the fact that a majority of the Australian public supports lifting the ban on nuclear power.

Whether Peter Dutton and the Liberals are genuine in their pursuit of nuclear energy is irrelevant. What matters is that the people have spoken, and their voice must be heard if our clean energy transition is to succeed.

Despite this groundswell of public support, by refusing to reconsider the ban on nuclear energy and accusing nuclear energy supporters of being climate deniers, Labor and the Greens risk falling into Dutton’s trap. The wedge being driven into the heart of the energy debate is feeding the culture wars, diverting attention from the urgent need to address climate change and provide a secure and sustainable energy future for all Australians.

October 2023 Essential polling on nuclear energy support
October 2023 Essential polling on nuclear energy support

Since 2019 polling has consistently demonstrated that there is a groundswell of support for nuclear energy among voters. Whether Peter Dutton and the Liberals are genuine in their pursuit of nuclear energy is irrelevant. What matters is that the people have spoken, and their voice must be heard if our clean energy transition is to succeed.


That same polling shows there is strong public support for renewable energy sources such as wind and solar, but there continues to be a stark partisan divide. Conservatives, a demographic traditionally resistant to renewables, are overwhelmingly supportive of nuclear power. This presents a unique opportunity for consensus-building in a polarised political landscape.


Equally significant is the evolving attitude among Labor and Greens voters. The growing support for nuclear energy within these traditionally environmentally conscious camps reveals a shifting paradigm and a recognition of nuclear’s global role in emissions reduction as well as minimal land use – an increasing point of contention for major wind and solar projects. This same trend is playing out globally as Green and centre-left voters increasingly favour new nuclear energy and are willing to call out politicians who claim to want climate action but reject nuclear energy.


Among more traditional Labor voters the fact that nuclear energy could provide a Just Transition for existing energy communities by offering like-for-like jobs is enticing to many. The energy security provided by nuclear power during periods of global energy insecurity, as seen after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, has also not gone unnoticed.

Labor and the Greens now stand at a crossroads. Rather than letting themselves be divided on the issue of nuclear energy, they have a unique opportunity to emerge as the great unifiers on climate and energy policy.

Nuclear energy serves as a unifying force, bringing together those who prioritise climate change and traditional conservation concerns with those who prioritise energy security and job creation.


Labor and the Greens now stand at a crossroads. Rather than letting themselves be divided on the issue of nuclear energy, they have a unique opportunity to emerge as the great unifiers on climate and energy policy. A sensible compromise could involve a commitment to lift the ban on nuclear energy, allowing the technology a fair chance to prove its worth, such a show of faith would help secure greater public support for the medium-term need to increase investment in wind and solar projects.


Such a compromise would not only bridge the gap between conflicting ideologies but also present a comprehensive and pragmatic approach to Australia's energy needs. It would be a historic moment where politicians put the interests of the nation above partisan bickering, working towards a sustainable and resilient energy future that addresses the urgent climate threat and meets the needs of all Australians.


Voters are tired of the Canberra squabbles, it’s time for our political leaders to listen to the people, set aside ideological differences, and seize the opportunity to unite the nation in addressing the pressing challenges of climate change and energy security. The pathway to a cleaner, more secure future lies not in division but in collaboration, and the time to act is now.


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