Greens plan to subsidise wages of coal workers and support communities through winding down of coal
To stop coal communities collapsing, every coal worker should have a decade of generous financial support, including wage subsidies to assist in moving to paid employment in new industries including renewables, minerals mining and green manufacturing, retrain, or take an early retirement, Australian Greens leader Adam Bandt MP has announced today.
Announcing the $19 billion community support package and Job-for-Job Guarantee in Newcastle today, Mr Bandt will meet with coal workers to outline how the generous package will mean they will have long term financial certainty, and their communities will continue to thrive beyond coal.
The plan is the latest climate announcement in the Greens balance of power push for this election, with Mr Bandt saying the Greens will make it a priority in balance of power in the next Parliament to kick the Liberals out and develop a national plan to support coal workers and communities.
Before entering Parliament, Mr Bandt represented coal-fired power station workers, helping protect their wages and conditions against attacks from big power corporations. Mr Bandt has also previously visited coal communities across the country to discuss the need for a jobs plan that supports workers as we phase out coal.
Funded by taxing Australia’s billionaires and big coal and gas corporations, the Greens’ plan for coal workers includes three interlocking components:
- Establish a Job-for-Job Guarantee with workforce pooling to ensure workers get good jobs without loss of pay as coal is phased out.
- Create local authorities that bring each coal community together to develop their plans for new employment overseen by a National Coal Communities Commission; and
- Finance those locally developed plans with an initial $2.8bn seeding through an independent National Coal Communities Commission.
The Job-for-Job Guarantee package will provide 50% of a coal worker's wage for a decade, provided as a wage subsidy to employers who provide an equivalent paying job. Workers over 55 will be able to receive the wage subsidy for up to 12 years as they transition to retirement. Workers who cannot find alternative work can receive the subsidy directly.
A generous financial support package to support coal workers move to new industries was a central component of the successful strategy employed by Germany to phase out their coal industry without a single worker losing their job.
The Greens plan builds on and supports the work and proposals being developed by local communities such as the recent plan put forward by the Hunter Jobs Alliance - Future-proofing the Hunter.
This announcement sits side by side with the Greens’ initiatives to invest billions of dollars to grow new industries in affected regions. In addition to the Diversifying Coal Communities Fund, the investment mandates of the Clean Energy Finance Corporation, the Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility and Export Finance Australia will be amended to prioritise the financing of the plans developed by local authorities.
The Greens have already announced a jobs-rich $40bn plan to convert Snowy Hydro into a massive renewables generator, with a big build of solar, wind and storage, creating over 110,000 jobs, many of which will be in current coal and gas areas and able to access the Job-for-Job Guarantee subsidies. The Greens will also announce further plans to grow new industries in coal and gas areas, including in manufacturing, steel and energy, as well as in the mining of minerals necessary in a zero emissions world.
The Greens plan is based on Australia exiting thermal coal by 2030, but will also extend the timetable for the phase-out of metallurgical coal until 2040, ensuring there is enough time to transition to replacements in the manufacture of green steel and other products.
Lines from Leader of the Australian Greens, Adam Bandt MP:
“Change is happening quickly but there’s no plan for coal workers,” said Mr Bandt.
“Governments are leaving coal workers exposed. With coal closures being brought forward and our coal customers moving to zero emissions, Australia is sleepwalking into the closure of the coal industry, but every single worker is being told by the Liberal and Labor parties that they have nothing to worry about.
“Liberal and Labor are lying to workers and communities, saying coal can keep going for decades when science says it clearly can’t.
“The Greens’ plan secures new jobs for coal workers, including in mining and energy, without loss of pay.
“In many places around the country the best job for a coal worker is another mining job, and the Greens’ plan will help make that a reality. There are enormous opportunities in developing critical minerals and green metal processing.
“Australia doesn’t need to shut down the mining industry, we’ve just got to get out of coal.
“We can’t have a devastating repeat of the collapse of our car manufacturing industry. Instead of leaving their fate in the hands of overseas boardrooms of big corporations, the Greens plan gives local communities control over their future.
“We owe coal workers a debt of thanks for powering our country. We don’t need to choose between taking urgent climate action and supporting coal communities. We can do both.”
Lines from NSW Greens MP David Shoebridge:
“The move away from coal may be a win for the climate, but we must make it a win for workers as well,” said Mr Shoebridge.
“Across the Hunter, coal workers know that the clock is ticking on coal. They’re watching local coal-fired power stations bring forward closures, seeing ships from fewer nations arrive for our coal, and can hear the demands for a safer future getting stronger and more urgent.
“Eraring’s accelerated closure is literally the canary in the coal mine. It's telling us that whether we like it or not, the end of coal isn’t decades away, but years and months.
“Coal workers have powered our nation and contributed to our national wealth for a long time, we must not leave them behind.
“I don’t want Newcastle’s future to be determined by corporate bosses in New York or Sydney or politicians in Canberra.
“The Hunter Valley Authority will kickstart new local industries, while the Job-for-Job Guarantee will help employers take on new staff and ensure every worker knows they’ll be able to pay the bills for the next decade.
“The Hunter’s opportunities are endless. With its deepwater port, Newcastle will be a crucial hydrogen export hub - exporting solar and wind power to Asia, plus products manufactured locally with endless and cheap renewable energy.
“We need to make this transition a win for the economy and the region. If state and federal government stop lying about the future of coal and start planning for change, we’ll get a win for workers and the climate.”