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(Australian Associated Press)
Australia’s mining union has urged federal and state governments to prepare for the nation’s coal-fired power stations to be shut by 2050 with a comprehensive transition package for workers.
The CFMEU commissioned the University of New South Wales’ business school to write a report into the future of the industry, which employs more than 26,000 workers directly and indirectly.
The report calls for the establishment of an independent statutory Energy Transition Authority to oversee closures and support workers find new jobs.
It suggests following the successful transition away from coal in Germany’s Ruhr region where investment in new industries resulted in no forced job losses.
The new authority would help co-ordinate and stagger power station closures, while also placing workers in other power stations slated to shut down later and retraining for other industries or retirement.
The study found indications that Australia’s 23 coal-fired power plants would close by 2050, with most set to end operation by 2035.
Australian Conservation Foundation chief executive Kelly O’Shanassy backed the proposal for a national authority.
“Good people work in these industries, they need a steady, well paid job to provide for their families,” she told the National Press Club in Canberra.
“The absence of a strong climate policy and transition plan abandons these people in the face of the inevitable change already underway.”
CFMEU national president Tony Maher said the energy policy debate was ignoring the impact on workers and communities.
“Coal power workers, communities and regions have contributed enormously to Australia’s prosperity and they should not be abandoned to deal with the fallout of energy transition on their own,” he said.
“Operators have stated their intentions to close power stations. Workers understand that their industry is changing, but they need and deserve support.”