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Comments made by Greens Leader Bob Brown, blaming the mining industry for the weather conditions that led to the devastating floods in Queensland have been slammed by unions.
The Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union (CFMEU) say the comments were insensitive and should be retracted.
"Debate of this nature needs to happen in a moderated form where discussions can occur, we can look at the issues and deal with them," CFMEU Spokesman Jim Valery said.
"Let’s look at the 1974 floods which were actually bigger, and climate change at that time wasn’t thought to be the major influence here."
Greens leader Bob Brown has drawn widespread criticism for blaming the flooding throughout Australia on climate change caused by fossil fuels.
The politician’s comments have been labelled irresponsible and insensitive and there are now calls for him to apologise for his claims, which have come as Queensland is struggling to deal with the loss of property and life caused by the floods.
“Climate scientists have warned politicians time and time again that individual extreme weather occurrences cannot be blamed on climate change,” Opposition Senate Leader, Eric Abetz said.
Brown said the mining sector should be taxed to cover what he says is their responsibility.
“Whenever there is a catastrophe with loss of life, the debate about the cause of that is part of the coming to grips,” he said.
“There’s very little doubt that the burning of fossil fuels is responsible for the hottest oceans we’ve ever seen in Australia, which in turn the scientists are saying very clearly is resposible for the quite extraordinary and harrowing floods we have seen.”
Resources Minister, Martin Ferguson, said Brown should consider the affects the floods have had not only on the mining companies, but also on the workers and their families.
“In the midst of this crisis, it is important to remember that it is not just the coal companies taking a hit,” he said.
“Workers in the coal industry, their families and their local communities are suffering. It is time for pulling together, not pointing the finger.”
As the mining industry voiced their outrage at Brown’s claims, the Senator tried to defend himself, saying he was not attacking mine workers when he called for the “culprits’ to help financially with the clean up.
These calls come after mining companies including Xstrata, Rio Tinto, BHP Billiton, Cockatoo Coal, Vale and Macarthur Coal have been forced to close some of their operations in Queensland and go into full or partial force majeure.
Many unable to work at the mines have been assisting with the rescue and recovery efforts, and mining companies have been some of the biggest donators to the flood relief effort, with millions pledged for the victims.
Despite this, Brown wants half of a 40 per cent resources super tax profits tax quarantined in a fund to pay for future natural disasters.
The federal government’s multi-party committee is currently investigating ways to price carbon and committee member Professor Will Steffen seems to agree with some of the comments made by the Greens leader.
”We are getting more intense rainfall events as the earth warms, but it’s difficult to pin down any individual event,” he said. ”Rainfall events like the type we’ve seen in Queensland are becoming more likely as the earth warms.”
Brown says those who disagreed with his comments were climate sceptics “or don’t believe we should be having to check on the burning of fossil fuels.”
”To say that we shouldn’t talk about it until some time into the future … is simply asking for the subject to be taboo. That’s not a responsible way for an open democracy like ours to progress,” he said