Today Abigail spoke briefly in support of the Upper Hunter and Hunter Valley communities, who the NSW Government has continuously ignored in their calls for economic support in transitioning from coal.
Abigail said (17:54):
In the Upper Hunter and the Hunter Valley generally communities know that their towns have contributed to the State's economy for decades. But they also see very clearly the writing on the wall that the coal industry is dying. The quality of jobs in the industry is getting more precarious, conditions are getting worse and they need a plan. They need a transition away from coal. They are telling us that. We have communities that are calling out for help in transitioning into new industries and we have a government that is telling them, "No, not yet. We still have something to get out of you. We still want you to be in a precarious position without knowing what your future is"—because it suits the government of the day.
The people of the Hunter know that transition is not a case of if, but when. They are actively working to try to prepare and plan that transition. The Hunter Jobs Alliance is doing great work in the Hunter and is calling for support for grassroots organising in the community. Its members are calling for direct funding into high-quality training, education and TAFE and for funding into alternative industries. They are looking for financial support for blue‑collar workers and those who are in the middle of their working lives and careers. They are clearly calling on the Government to tell them the truth and to allow them to have the transition plan that they deserve. Finally, $25 million a year to the Royalties Rejuvenation Fund is an absolute joke. Muswellbrook alone contributes $400 million in royalties each year. To throw that community a measly $25 million when they are being faced with $600 million in health costs each year due to air pollution is a slap in the face. They are not stupid; they know that it is a slap in the face.
For the full transcript of the debate, visit Hansard here.