CANBERRA, AAP – Workers from a key mining and manufacturing region of NSW want an honest conversation with decision-makers about the looming energy transition, to ensure their future.
The Hunter Jobs Alliance has on Thursday announced recommendations for leaders to ensure proper planning occurs, with the timing coinciding with Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s visit to the area.
He has launched a road map for the resources sector, utilising minerals for products like batteries and solar cells.
“So, preserving the industrial base that has been so successful here in the Hunter, but also giving it a future through these types of initiatives,” he said from Tomago.
Mr Morrison is campaigning in the area, which is home to the Hunter federal electorate.
It is held by Labor’s Joel Fitzgibbon but he was close to losing the seat at the last election, resulting in him calling for a shake up of the opposition’s renewables-focused energy policies.
The Hunter alliance is made up of 13 local unions and environment groups, who want a common sense conversation to occur free from politics.
“As long as discussions about the Hunter’s future are a politically-charged, culture war bun-fight, governments and business are less likely to invest,” the group says in a new report.
“The Hunter community needs to take some responsibility for leading the discussion, creating expectations of government, and making practical action a widely-endorsed matter of common sense.”
Four coal-fired power stations in the region are scheduled to close, with more jobs slated to go following a major smelter shutting in 2012 and the BHP steelworks in 1999.
The group wants a statutory authority set up to ensure there is proper planning.
Hunter Jobs Alliance spokesman Warrick Jordan says reality and a sense of urgency needs to be injected into the debate.
“The truth is the future is uncertain, but the trajectory is clear,” he said.
“People only need to look at the scheduled closure of our coal-fired power stations or the threats of a changing grid for major employers like aluminium smelting to see change is well and truly on its way.”
Mr Morrison insists there will be demand for Australian coal in Japan and China for “considerable time into the future”.
The two countries have committed to net zero emissions by 2050 and 2060 respectively and are undergoing their own energy system shifts.
“I’ve outlined that our commitment is to get to net zero as soon as possible and preferably by 2050,” Mr Morrison said.
“That shouldn’t be done at the expense of regional Australia.”