Much is being made of the so-called “shift” in Labor’s position on coal exports (‘Post-election Labor leans back to coal’, Opinion 29/8). In fact, Labor’s position has not shifted. Maybe it’s the media reporting that has.
Labor has always said there is nothing inconsistent with wanting and planning for a renewable energy future while supporting the coal industry and the jobs and economic benefits it brings regions like the Hunter. As Labor's shadow minister assisting for climate change, I have consistently made the point that the debate around energy production is quite separate to the debate about coal exports, and to conflate the two is misguided and misleading.
I have also made the point that Labor recognises that our region was built on the sacrifices of coal miners and that mining jobs are important to our region and will continue to be in the future.
However, I have also tried to bring some reality to the debate. While Australia thermal coal exports have increased in recent years as countries choose our "cleaner" coal, worldwide demand for thermal coal is decreasing, and we must plan for that eventuality. And, in any case, about 65 per cent of the coal Australia exports (by value) is used for steel-making, not in energy production. This is unlikely to change in the foreseeable future. I'd encourage readers to look at the opinion pieces I have contributed to this paper and others on my website that make these salient points.
This letter was published in the Newcastle Herald on September 2, 2019