Labor deputy leader Richard Marles (right) and Shadow Minister for Northern Australia Murray Watt are touring CQ.
Labor deputy leader Richard Marles (right) and Shadow Minister for Northern Australia Murray Watt are touring CQ. Leighton Smith

Labor deputy back tracks on pre-election anti-coal stance

IT WAS divisive anti-coal comments made by Corio MP Richard Marles that could have played a part in Labor being smashed around CQ in the 2019 federal election results.

Visiting Rockhampton yesterday as Labor's newly installed deputy leader, a contrite and apologetic Mr Marles admitted he got it wrong with his "tone deaf” comments suggesting a potential collapse of global coal markets was "a good thing”.

It was that comment which local ALP stalwart Robert Schwarten, who worked on Labor candidate and third-generation coal miner Russell Robertson's unsuccessful campaign for Capricornia, said "absolutely helped wreck our agenda in Capricornia”.

"My comments were tone deaf. There's no doubt about that and to the extent that it caused any person to not vote Labor, I'm deeply sorry about that,” Mr Marles said.

"What the comments failed to do was celebrate the role that coal miners and coal mining have within our economy and I was wrong in not doing that.”

Mr Marles personally experienced the impact of the demise of the auto manufacturing sector in his Geelong electorate. He said he knew the value of jobs to a local community and he could recognise the important employment role that the coal industry provided the people of CQ.

Mr Marles said he wanted coal miners to once again identify with the Labor party as their party of choice and that he had a job ahead of him in speaking to them.

"The most ardent supporter of renewable energy, and moving down that path, would acknowledge that coal will play a part in our economy for decades to come,” he said.

"It is really important that we are celebrating coal miners, the coal industry and acknowledging it as a central part of the Australian economy.

"I'm very keen to meet with as many miners and people from this region as possible and hear from them about how they see Labor going forward.”

Capricornia MP Michelle Landry welcomed Mr Marles to Central Queensland saying she hoped he was here to spend time actually listening.

"His method to date has been to deride the very industry that Central Queenslanders rely on,” Ms Landry said.

"When Mr Marles said the collapse of thermal coal markets would be a "good thing” for Australia, he surely wasn't thinking that coal is our nation's number one export and how many Central Queenslanders rely on it to put food on their tables.

"May 18 was a wake up call for the ALP and given the frosty reception from local Labor MPs when he nominated for Deputy Leader, I'm surprised he has come here at all.”

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