March 1, 2023
MEU delegates from coal-fired power stations and domestic thermal coal mines across Australia met in Sydney last week to discuss the challenges facing their industry and the need for co-ordinated federal support for workers.
About sixty delegates from 25 work sites in Western Australia, Tasmania, Victoria, Queensland and NSW attended the meeting, where they heard from Climate Change and Energy Minister Chris Bowen, industry experts on hydrogen and carbon capture storage and representatives from all Districts about recent industry developments.
Delegates endorsed the following statement:
This meeting of National MEU Energy Delegates has had two days of fruitful discussion regarding the substantial challenges facing Australia’s coal power industry.
Delegates have shared their concerns about the lack of co-ordinated support for energy workers and communities in a period of rapid transition, including:
- Prospects for future secure, well-paid jobs
- Economic and social decline of coal communities as mines and power stations close
- Pressure on the way coal-fired power stations are operated due to the influx of renewables to the grid
- Lack of employer investment in maintenance as facilities move towards closure, compromising worker safety
- Lack of political and investor support for coal-related industries and technologies
- Security of energy supply
Delegates appreciate the attendance and contribution of Federal Government representatives to discuss worker transition support and industry experts to discuss potential application of hydrogen and carbon capture and storage technologies.
We call for urgent establishment of a federal Energy Transition Authority to fund and co-ordinate support for workers, families and communities affected by the closure of coal power stations and associated coal mines. We call on mine and power station operators to maintain the highest standards of safety during the period of transition and commit to holding them to account for keeping workers safe.
General President Tony Maher addressed the meeting about the urgent need for an Energy Transition Authority, as the timeline for power station closures accelerates.
“Given the speed at which coal fire power stations are now accelerating toward closure the Federal Government has to establish an Energy Transition Authority this year or it will probably be too late.
“If Australia doesn’t get an Energy Transition Authority established in time it would be a moral failure, because it’s wrong to expect blue collar workers to bear the brunt of the nation’s climate change action when the costs could easily be shared.”
Peter Compton from Mt Piper power station said it was a great opportunity to meet with others from across the industry to discuss achievements and frustrations as well as ask questions and share views with decision-makers.
He said workers had a front seat view of the immense changes facing the industry, but their interests were not being taken into account in government planning.
“Coal-fired power station closures are going to have an enormous impact on the grid and need to be planned for. Closures are also going to have an enormous impact on our lives and communities and these outcomes need to planned for too.
“I support the call for a Federal Energy Transition Authority. It has been great to speak with other energy workers from around Australia about how we navigate all the changes ahead.”