Fossil Fuels

Today in Parliament, Abigail moved a motion in support of a transition to 100% renewable energy, to stop the construction of any new fossil fuel projects and ensure all workers in the coal industry are supported to transition to new jobs in renewable energy.

Ms ABIGAIL BOYD: I move:

That private members' business item No. 5 in the order of precedence be considered in a short form format.

Motion agreed to.

Ms ABIGAIL BOYD (17:08:45): I move:

(1) That this House notes that:

(a)we are in a climate emergency, which threatens our very existence on this fragile planet, and that the continued global extraction of fossil fuels is one of the primary contributors to that emergency;

(b)New South Wales, as a major coal exporter and with significant gas reserves is a major contributor to the climate emergency that we must all take responsibility to address; and 

(c)there are significant opportunities for New South Wales in the renewable energy industry, with the potential to create thousands of sustainable jobs and ensuring the economic prosperity and wellbeing of the people of New South Wales.

(2) That this House call on the Government to pass laws to prohibit new approvals for the extraction of thermal coal, oil and gas and to prohibit the construction of any new major infrastructure related to them, including pipelines.

We are in a climate crisis. As our rivers dry up and our country burns people from all walks of life are coming face to face with the harsh reality of our changing climate: raging bushfires, prolonged droughts, air so thick with smoke one cannot breathe. These things should not be normal. But if we continue down the path we are on, they will be. While our country burns and as our planet heats up, this Government is continuing to do what it does best: Propping up industries that are most responsible for the crisis we now face. We must face a harsh but necessary truth: Fossil fuels have had their day. We have a better way of doing things now. The future is renewable. A majority of voters of all political persuasions now wholly support renewable energy—Labor, Liberal, Nationals, The Greens. No matter your affiliation, no matter whether you are conservative or progressive, a majority of Australians want a complete decarbonisation of our economy and a translation to a jobs-rich future powered by 100 per cent renewable energy.

There are significant opportunities for New South Wales in the renewable energy industry with the potential to create thousands and thousands of sustainable jobs and to ensure the economic prosperity and wellbeing of the people of New South Wales. We are already seeing the potential for the jobs and prosperity that renewable energy industries can bring. TheClean Jobs America report found that, despite hostility from the Trump administration, by the end of this decade the solar energy industry is likely to be the second-largest employer in America behind only Walmart. There are similar trends in Australia—again, despite hostility from the Morrison Government. These will be well-paid jobs in a thriving and futureproof industry. But it is not enough just to create new jobs.

We need to ensure that affected communities come out the other side not just surviving, but thriving, and that they have not just replacement jobs but better, long-term secure jobs with a living wage and protected working conditions. While we are providing for a just transition for coal communities and ensuring that no worker is left behind, it is patently clear that we cannot be simultaneously adding to the scope of that transition task by creating new jobs in new coalmines and in new fossil fuel related projects. Yesterday we heard in this House from members across the political spectrum who put on record that they do not want the 2019-20 bushfire season to become the new normal. Yet for years we have been warned by scientists that climate change will lead to longer and more severe bushfire seasons as well as more pronounced droughts and other severe weather events.

We have also been warned for many years that fossil fuels must stay in the ground if we are to avoid the worst of climate change and have any chance of keeping global warning to below 1½ degrees Celsius. Some would argue that it is too late, that there is nothing we can do now to avoid climate change. But that is simply a self-serving attitude that goes hand in hand with an unwillingness to change the way we do things and to change the structure of a society where a wealthy few benefits from the extraction of fossil fuels while also being the ones who can afford to shield themselves from the worst impacts of the climate crisis. This Government can and must prohibit new approvals for the extraction of thermal coal, oil and gas and prohibit the construction of any new major infrastructure related to them, including pipelines.

It is time for those in this place who continue to peddle the myths perpetrated by the fossil fuel industry and who continue to prop up the coal industry that provides fewer and fewer jobs and contributes less than 2 per cent to the New South Wales budget to stop putting the short-term profits of corporations before the long-term health of our communities, our country, our environment and our economy. It is time to say no to all new coal, all new oil and all new gas and to say yes to a thriving jobs-rich future with 100 per cent renewable energy by 2030. I commend the motion to the House.

Ms ABIGAIL BOYD (17:27:15): In reply: I thank the Hon. Sam Farraway, the Hon. Adam Searle, Mr Justin Field and Ms Cate Faehrmann for their contributions to this debate. In relation to the Hon. Sam Farraway's contribution, the regions need leadership. They need the Government to think outside the box and to provide for their futures. They need a government that can create jobs in other industries. Does the Government think that coal workers actually want to work in coal mines forever, with the health risks that that work brings and with the increasing job insecurity and poor working conditions? Of course not; they would much rather work in green sustainable jobs and other sustainable industries such as health and education. The economics the Government points to are focused on the short term. The writing is on the wall and good economic management means seeing further than the next budget and actually planning for a strong long-term economy by planning new jobs in new industries when old industries are dying.

In relation to the contribution from the Hon Adam Searle, with respect, Labor's amendments create an entirely different motion, so we will not accept those amendments. I would love to see the Opposition bring a climate change motion of its own and hopefully we will see that in future sitting weeks. But effectively they cannot have it both ways. They cannot accept that climate change is a real and pressing issue based on the science and then not also heed the science that says we need to keep fossil fuels in the ground. The narrative being pushed by a number of parties that this motion is attacking coal miners is patently ridiculous. By not accepting the writing on the wall, both major parties are turning their backs on coal workers.

Even the unions are criticising Labor for its failure to lead the industry's transition. Labor has abandoned workers in the coal industry. Mr Justin Field's amendment is helpful in trying to make the Opposition's amendments mean something. I must say, I share Mr Justin Field's frustration about this. It should be a relatively easy task. We are not asking for the entire coal industry to be wound down overnight. We are saying that the coal industry needs to accept that there can be no new coal mines or other fossil fuel projects. I commend the motion to the House.

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