June 6, 2019
There’s no question that coal was at the centre of May’s federal election. Green activists and the ‘stop Adani’ campaign made sure of that, with their convoy into Queensland backfiring when it turned out that people in coal regions support our second largest export industry and the jobs it provides.
One of the outcomes of the focus on coal during the federal election is that the Queensland Government announced tight deadlines for approving outstanding approvals for Adani’s Carmichael project in the Galilee Basin, with the final approval before construction can commence to be announced this week.
If its groundwater management plan is approved, construction may proceed within weeks – but it’s just as likely there will be further delays due to legal challenges or other hold-ups. Adani still has to navigate building a rail line and negotiating a royalties agreement.
Adani has become a symbol of the coal industry’s future due to aggressive campaigning for and against it. Our union supports coal developments that can meet required approvals and industry standards, Adani included. But a 10 million tonne per annum coal mine will not change the face of Australia’s coal industry. If it doesn’t go ahead, that volume of coal will be produced elsewhere to meet market demand, along with the 800-1500 on-going jobs it anticipates creating. During the election campaign, the Queensland Government announced its approval of the 15 million tonne Olive Downs coal mine with 1000 on-going jobs and fast-tracking of the 8 million tonne Winchester South coal mine with 450 on-going jobs, to little fanfare.
Our focus now is on making sure that any jobs the Carmichael project does create are local, permanent and well-paid (Letter to Adani). If half the jobs are casual labour hire with no holidays, no job security and 30% less pay it will be a slap in the face for locals who have supported the project in good faith.
Our Union campaigned for a change of government because we are alarmed at the spread of casual labour hire through our industries, a rort driven by employers to drive down wages and conditions. Federal Labor had commitments to end casualisation of permanent jobs and to ensure ‘same job same pay’ for labour hire workers. We will keep fighting the casual labour hire rort, but there’s no question it will be a more difficult battle.
However, we understand there was real concern in coal communities about Labor’s energy policy and a perceived lack of support for the coal industry that hurt Labor’s vote in coal regions.
Labor’s new resources spokesman, Hunter MP Joel Fitzgibbon has conceded that Labor didn’t spend enough time talking up the value of mining. Even though it has always been Labor’s policy to support the export coal industry and for coal power to be a significant part of Australia’s domestic energy mix, they were reluctant to talk about it. Joel’s appointment is a good outcome and he will be a great advocate for the industry and for the workers and communities who rely on it.
Meanwhile, we will be making sure that all MPs who won their seats on a platform of supporting coal are held to account for supporting coal workers, not just company profits. Coal mining should be a source of good, local well-paid jobs, but as we all know, the bosses are always looking for ways around it. We are as focused as ever on fighting for our members’ jobs and rights.