Opinion pieces


November 23, 2021

After a massive two weeks of discussions and negotiations, the COP26 climate conference in Glasgow wrapped up earlier this month.

There was a huge build up to the event, with Prince Charles calling it “the last chance saloon” for climate action, and Boris Johnson saying “if Glasgow fails, the Paris Agreement fails”.

I was fortunate enough to represent the alternative Government - and the Hunter region - at COP26.

In my opinion, the conference had elements of the good, bad, and ugly.

The good news was that 140 nations increased their 2030 emissions reduction commitments.

If these are implemented, global warming would be kept to about 1.8 degrees above pre-industrial levels.

The bad news is that under Mr Morrison, Australia was the only developed country not to increase its 2030 commitment.

Despite this being the main goal of COP26, Scott Morrison ruled out doing that before the conference even began.

Which brings me to the ugly.

The Prime Minister’s inaction has not only exposed the Liberal-National Government as climate laggards, it is having real-world economic consequences in our region.

Australia now faces the risk of carbon border tariffs for our minerals, farm and manufactured exports, including from the Hunter.

This will make our exports more expensive and hence less competitive against other nations.

This means less exports and less jobs.

COP26 made it clear that the Hunter region needs a Federal Government with a real plan to develop new industries as the world reduces greenhouse gas emissions.

Coal exports are a major source of economic opportunity and jobs in our region and will remain so for decades to come.

However, COP26 saw over 190 countries and organisations pledging to phase out coal-fired power generation.

This will have significant impacts on demand for thermal coal, which dominates Hunter coal production.

With 80% of global GDP decarbonising, it is a shift being driven by the boardrooms of Beijing, Tokyo, and Seoul and in Japan, South Korea and India, not by decisions in Canberra.

While Mr Morrison likes to brag about his ‘don’t-do Government’ it is the responsibility of the Federal Government to ensure that regions like ours are not hung out to dry as the global economy changes.

We need a Government with a clear plan to drive investment in the new industries that can provide thousands of well-paid, secure new jobs in the Hunter.

Our region has the skills, the talent, the trained workforce, the transport links and the infrastructure to build entire new industries like hydrogen, green steel, green

ammonia and battery manufacturing.

We have done it before after the shutdown of local steelmaking two decades ago.

And we can do it again, but we desperately need a Federal Government with the plans, the policies, the funding and the commitment to our region to make it happen.

Scott Morrison treats the Hunter as a backdrop for his latest fly-in, fly-out fluorovested photo opportunity.

Those of us who live and work here know his marketing slogans, political rhetoric, and broken promises won’t build a strong future for our region.

I am proud to represent a coal mining region in the Australian Parliament.

I am grateful for the sacrifices coal miners have made and the wealth their hard work has provided and continues to provide for our region and the nation.

They deserve better than a Prime Minister who treats them as pawns in his political games.

The key question for the Hunter is not whether this change is coming.

The question is what will the Federal Government do to support the regions that have powered our country for generations, and build the new industries that will ensure future prosperity for the Hunter?

The Morrison-Joyce Government can’t be trusted to manage economic change they deny will happen.

If Mr Morrison really cared about coal miners he would do three things: be honest with them about what is coming; develop a real plan for our region; and ensure coal mining jobs in the meantime are good paying and secure tackling the scourge of labour hire and sham casuals.

Under Anthony Albanese and Labor’s $15 billion National Reconstruction Fund and $20 billion Rewiring the Nation plan, the Hunter has a strong future as the world

moves to tackle climate change.

COP26 proved to me we desperately need a new Government in Canberra to ensure the Hunter grows and thrives as the world moves to a low-carbon future.