Coal mine operator and dispatcher Christie Lynch. Picture by Peter Lorimer.
Coal mine operator and dispatcher Christie Lynch. Picture by Peter Lorimer.

Workers ‘authority’ needed to manage energy sector changes

Coal provides thousands of jobs and billions of dollars to the Central Queensland economy, so the union representing the industry is calling on the State Government to establish a statutory authority to oversee the transformation of the sector.

The “Workers Future Authority”, as the CFMEU has dubbed it, would be independent of government departments to manage industry transformation and workers transitioning to alternate employment.

With the transition to renewable energy, the CFMEU said the “Workers Future Authority” would identify and attract new industries to impacted regions and would identify areas for skills development, training, and government investment.

Central Queensland has both solar and wind farms established and proposed, plus Gladstone has been identified as a hydrogen hub, on the back of its port, infrastructure, the Gladstone Hydrogen Ecosystem and Hydrogen Park Gladstone initiatives.

Despite the renewable clean energy revolution, Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack said in Gladstone this week, coal had a definite future in Central Queensland.

“Coal has a future, coal has a big future,” Mr McCormack said.

“I know that some of our political opponents don’t think it, but coal has an amazing future and the world will continue to want coal as a resource.”

But with thousands of workers in the coal industry uncertain of the future, the CFMEU said the “Workers Future Authority” would provide reassurance to the sector.

CFMEU Mining and Energy Queensland District President Stephen Smyth. Picture Daryl Wright
CFMEU Mining and Energy Queensland District President Stephen Smyth. Picture Daryl Wright

CFMEU Mining and Energy Division Queensland District president Stephen Smyth, said the time to act was now.

“The Queensland energy sector is rapidly shifting from its traditional reliance on coal fired power generation to run the state,” Mr Smyth said.

“It’s inevitable coal fired power stations will shut down or ‘mothball’ units over the next 20 years, potentially causing great pain and upheaval for workers, families, and communities.

“The Palaszczuk Government must therefore act early to ensure regional mining and energy generation communities have an active role in driving transitional arrangements.

“An adequately resourced and funded independent authority could work on ensuring that future jobs stay in regional Queensland and ensure sustainable, liveable communities.”

Mr Smyth said planning of the renewable projects to ensure communities could adjust to the transformation was essential.

“Future mining, carbon-capture-and-storage, solar, wind or hydrogen projects must be planned such that Queensland’s regional communities can recalibrate,” he said.

“Community resources can then be transferred accordingly in an orderly way.

“For the new Workers Future Authority to function properly the mining union, and other relevant stakeholders, must have a seat on the Authority’s governing body.

“There are ample international examples of what happens when governments get this right and, sadly, also examples of when they get it wrong.

“We need to make sure Queensland falls in the right bucket.”

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