During the much-awaited reveal of the 2024-25 federal budget, Treasurer Jim Chalmers is set to provide additional insights into the government’s ambitious Future Made in Australia initiative.

This comprehensive plan aims to breathe new life into domestic manufacturing by ramping up investment in clean manufacturing, industry, and energy sectors, with a particular focus on renewable sources like solar and wind power.

In the quest for sustainable and resilient communities, Dr. Gill Armstrong, Buildings Project Impact Manager at Climateworks Centre, sheds light on the critical importance of Budget priorities aimed at enhancing building infrastructure. 

With a focus on incentivising sustainable practices, Dr. Armstrong emphasizes the multifaceted benefits that such measures can bring, ranging from bolstering national energy security to improving public health and reducing household expenses.

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Vanessa Gatica: How do you anticipate the allocation of 1 billion for infrastructure projects aligning with sustainability objectives, and what effects might these investments have on community resilience and environmental conservation?

Dr Gill Armstrong: Yeah. Well, hi. It’s a really good start. And what we need to do is, is to align all the sectors to being net zero. And the budget is one great opportunity to start doing that. And that infrastructure that we that will be now funded will start to have a real big impact further down the line. So it’s building the capacity and building the workforce and, making Australia a leader in those spaces.

Vanessa GaticaWith the budget 2024-25, emphasizing the importance of better buildings. How do you envision government incentives playing a role in promoting energy security, enhancing public health, and reducing household bills?

Dr Gill Armstrong: Yeah. So the immediate bill result relief is really welcomed in this budget. And but there’s another next few steps that will be even more impactful. And these are providing support to upgrade buildings through things like electrification of gas cooktops and and changing appliances at the end of their life to, um, be electric room heaters and electric hot water heaters. It’s also support for making the walls roof of these existing homes better, so that they stay warmer in winter, and they keep the cooling in summer as a basic expectation. And it’s around funding new affordable housing that’s energy efficient, that is, um, affordable housing for me is really not just the price of the home. It’s actually having low bills when people have moved in. So it’s through giving those kind of relief through the budget, but also through the next steps through the um, sector plans that the government is currently developing up the sector plans of the next big opportunity to provide support for people to do that. I guess the biggest impact for communities and households really, is that the from day one, the electrification and upgrading buildings gives bill savings from that day one, but also it by removing gas from inside homes. It’s also creating a healthier environment and reducing carbon emissions as well. So it’s kind of three wins there.

Vanessa Gatica: Given your extensive experience in decarbonising Australia’s building sector, could you outline the key challenges and opportunities in achieving carbon neutrality within this industry?

Dr Gill Armstrong: Yeah. So we’re prioritizing, um, vulnerable households first. Um, and if you support houses to upgrade their walls and roofs, put insulation in and gap seal, etc., if you prioritize vulnerable households first, then that helps upskill the existing workforce so that they know what renovation and upskilling their workforce so that they’re ready to roll out these upgrades across all homes. So if we target the vulnerable people, then those homes get done first and we get the, uh, workforce upscale versus setting up the supply chains for the different technologies that are needed to do this. And once those supply chains are set up and become mature, it gets cheaper for everybody. So targeting low income and those who experience the most disadvantage first, rather than being at the back of the queue, uh, would be, um, a really good outcome of the sector plans that are coming out this year.

Vanessa Gatica: Doctor Jill Armstrong, buildings project impact manager at Climateworks Centre. Thank you so much for your interview.