Amidst an increasingly uncertain outlook for the future of coal jobs, the Australian manufacturing union is calling for efforts to be made for a smooth transition from coal.
Members of the union are asking for governments to ensure they have plans for transferring the existing workforce into alternative industries, and financing efforts directed towards the geographic areas that are most at risk.
This call comes as the Liberal government is considering a change to the Clean Energy Finance Corporation’s rules, which would allow the alternative energy fund to be used for “clean coal” initiatives.
Steve McCartney, state secretary for the union, said government investment was required to support industry to save workers. “We have to give them land,” he said. “We have to give them tax concessions to make it happen. More importantly we have to have a buy-local campaign to make us buy our own goods.”
He said that coal and mining towns were too crucial to be abandoned, and must be supported through policy and action.
“Any discussion on shutting down coal has to be preempted with a discussion on what are we going to do with the town,” he said.
“If you think five people driving around in a ute checking windmills will fix it, it’s not going to.”
“So we have to have a realistic approach as a government or a country or a state. Before you talk about shutting down the power station in this place, what actual industry are you going to start in that place before it closes.”
The AMWU called for industry hubs supported by government in suffering regions and praised the establishment of the shipbuilding hub in Henderson, Western Australia.
“I’ve got to say, if it wasn’t for the National party a long time ago, we probably wouldn’t have had that hub,” McCartney said. “People thought it was going to be a white elephant. It has proven itself now. Not only has it created an industry, it has created up- and downstream companies around there.”