Opinion pieces

Welfare of workers and communities at heart of Labor policy

May 30, 2019

Nothing could be further from the truth.

Labor's Just Transitions policy relates to jobs in coal-fired power stations, not coal mining, and deliberately conflating the two is deceitful.

The vast majority of Hunter coal is exported and this will continue for decades.

But our power stations are ageing, and their owners have plans to close them.

This has nothing to do with Labor policy.

I welcome the thousands of jobs that our coal exports provide. 

Our region was built on the sacrifices of coal miners and Labor will always stand up for miners' rights. 

The same cannot be said for candidates whose parties have a track record to the contrary.

There is no need for miners to feel threatened or alienated by Labor policies, but they ought to be suspicious of deliberate misrepresentation of them by vested interests and political candidates who want their vote.

Part of that deception is to foster the notion that coal will go on forever. 

The facts are these, and they are nothing to do with Labor policies.

Global demand for thermal coal (coal for energy production) is in decline. It peaked in 2014 and fell by 8 per cent in the next two years.

However, since 2012 Australian thermal coal exports have risen by almost 27 per cent as other countries switch to better quality Australia coal, which is great news for jobs in the Hunter and for our economy.

Nevertheless, over time, as other nations shift to renewables, the global thermal trade will decline further and Australian thermal coal exports will eventually begin to fall.

Our coking coal will still be in demand in the clean energy revolution as it is used to make steel - it takes 200 tonnes of coal to make one wind turbine. 

But global demand for thermal coal is in structural decline.

These are the facts; it is likely to be decades away, but it is inevitable.

Labor will continue to put the welfare of workers and communities at the heart of our policies.

But we will not ignore reality; nor will we make false promises.

This opinion piece was published in the Newcastle Herald on May 30, 2019.