Home - Claire Moore - Labor Senator for Queensland

MATTERS OF PUBLIC IMPORTANCE - Economy

Senator MOORE (Queensland) (16:57): In the short time while I'm the lead-up act for Senator Keneally's first speech, it's important to know that, in terms-

Senator Williams: I thought I did that!

Senator MOORE: No, you didn't, Senator Williams. It's always really important to find something in any of these motions with which you can agree. In this afternoon's matter of public importance from the Greens, the last sentence is one we can support, which is to:

make sure coal reliant communities are fairly transitioned into new and meaningful employment.

Indeed, that's a key element of Labor policy. We accept, and our policies are clear on the fact, that, through the massive changes that will have to happen, we need to move into an area of production that looks much more clearly at green production of energy and we need to look at renewables much more. Our policies are there, they're clearly on record, and we talk about our commitment to ensuring that we have a renewable energy source in this nation.

But this particular motion, which says we'll just cut down coal straightaway-no more approvals-just does not meet the reality test. There's a lot of work that has to be done and not just from on high in government, and certainly not just through the NEG, the fabulous 24-page document that doesn't give us much detail at all. What we need to do is ensure that communities understand the value of a green future and understand the value, the work opportunities and the future of renewable energies. We need to work with communities that now are featured in and focused very seriously on the coal industry. We need to ensure that they feel part of the changes that will take place and that must take place.

This just-transition clause is one on which we need to concentrate and on which we can be united right across this chamber. But going into long, deep diatribes about the value of coal, lugging lumps of coal into the parliament area and talking about this issue will not make for a just transition. It will not ensure that we have the information available to us so that we can plan into the future and we can put in place the kinds of policies that many people have spoken about in this place over many years. In terms of our future, we acknowledge that that must happen. In terms of working together, that's where there can be effective processes and effective movements that engage with people locally and look at the people who have the knowledge. We had the beginning of that. We had the government's Finkel review, the one that we strongly supported. The Finkel review spent months travelling around our nation, talking with people about the different forms of energy and talking with communities about how they felt about energy in their communities, how they felt about their futures. It acknowledged the vulnerabilities and the fears of many people in many communities who felt that their way of life, their history and their families' futures were being put at risk and that they did not understand the change. That's the difference in which we can all play a part. We can play a part in ensuring that the transitions in the future are understood, and that people are part of those processes and don't feel as though they are being victimised, demonised or labelled.

We have spoken many times in this place about how we need to look at having an effective energy future for our country. This is not just for our country; this is part of an international debate. We are not only talking about the impact that's happening in our own nation; we are part of an international struggle, an international focus that must look at getting the best possible future. This includes the best production of energy, engagement with communities and moving to a place where there is an effective, efficient focus on renewable energy. Senator Williams doesn't seem to be particularly active in this transition. He doesn't seem to want to be part of the process. Good shearer that he is, we need to ensure that he's part of the focus as we go into the future. In terms of Labor Party policies, we have said consistently that we acknowledge there has been a history of coal in our nation, and we are proud of that history-we have worked with the people who are in those communities working in the production of those elements, and in the way that has provided energy for many people over decades-but that time is passed. We need to work at combining the coal industry, while it continues, with the renewable energy industry into the future.

The process that we have in front of us doesn't take into account the need to have that cooperation, the need to have that engagement. It doesn't ensure that we look realistically at where there is need for continuing coal production or look at each proposal for the development of new production across the existing processes in place. Do they meet the environmental standards that we have in place? Do they meet the kinds of issues that communities need to keep them strong and to ensure that there is effective employment and the long-term building of communities, which has been such a feature in my home state of Queensland? You can go through the coal areas in Queensland and see communities that have been vibrant, that have been developed over the years: they have set up their own hospitals, their own schools, their own community networks. That cannot be just wiped out with a single movement, as much as some people think it can happen. There are work opportunities so that we do not actually victimise or demonise a whole element of our community. And if we do go down that track, we'll be back here fighting across the chamber and not being able to get the real work done.

There does seem to be agreement on many of these issues in this place. There's an acknowledgement that renewable energy can, and will, work, but there seems to be a legacy somewhere that refuses to see that these can work together. The legacy sees that it's going to be an open battle. It does not need to be that way, but that seems to be the reaction we had to the Finkel review. All the work that was done by Professor Finkel and his team, which looked at putting those things in place and looked at the future, was seemingly dismissed by the government when they threw that report out and came up with their own proposal. We still haven't seen all the details of that proposal, and, until we see the details, we're going to have people-those people who will be immediately impacted by any changes that come down-still lost, still confused and still unaware about where they and their communities fit.

This motion doesn't actually address what we need to do in Australia. It makes a straight comment with all the rhetoric about how we have to move immediately and not have any more coalmining in this country. It makes that flat point, immediately taking the offensive and immediately dividing-not trying to build an argument or to build a community, but just dividing it-and then the way that we need to have a just transition is tacked on to the end of it. I would value this discussion much more if we led with the second part of the statement. If the Greens, who put this forward, led with, 'We need to have the just transition', then we could work on it-and there is the willingness to do that. But why begin with the attack, other than to make a political statement? Why not go straight to the fact that there is commonality of purpose and commonality of understanding-

Honourable senators interjecting-

Senator MOORE: and I'm wondering when the commonality of understanding will allow me to finish speaking! Nonetheless, in terms of where we're going to go in this place, we will have the opportunity. There will be further debates in this place, there is nothing surer. We had almost the same debate last week, with probably much the same speakers taking probably much the same points. But as long as that debate is solely in this place, we will not be able to move forward. This discussion needs to be out in the communities that will be the focus of the change. These discussions need to be had in the coalmining areas of our nation. It doesn't matter which state-Queensland, in particular, or New South Wales or Tasmania-wherever there are existing coalmines, we need to have a very open discussion with those communities. We need to work out what the future is going to be and put forward the strong arguments and the actual realities of renewable energy. This is no longer some pie-in-the-sky idea that people are able to do in academic areas. Renewable energy is an active, vibrant industry which will be able to promote employment and maintain communities.

That will be the focus of our discussion-the maintenance of respect and the need for effective communities-rather than once again taking philosophical positions, refusing to have open discussion, refusing to have any kind of communication. By blaming and labelling, we ensure that people continue to feel that they have no place in the argument, that they will not be respected and that, once again, from on high, they, their families and their futures will be ignored. Again, there'll be this growing displacement-this growing fact that parliaments and governments do not understand the needs of real communities across our whole nation.