In the midst of intense opposition from within the resources sector about the federal government’s carbon tax, Prime Minister Julia Gillard has sought to assure workers and employers it will not damage jobs or exports.
New South Wales coal miners have been most concerned about the government’s plan to charge $23 per tonne on emissions, and yesterday Gillard travelled to Newcastle to address the concerns.
She told workers they could be sure they would have a job for decades to come in the coal mining industry, and even said their sons could confidently follow in their footsteps.
In the midst of the mining boom that experts say saved Australia from a recession, the uncertainty for the sector is proving unnerving.
Despite the fears that the tax will close multiple coal mines in New South Wales within three years, the government remains committed to introducing the tax and says it will not damage the sector.
The Federal Resources Minister Martin Ferguson told The Australian the amount of liquefied natural exports from Australia would more than double in the next five years.
Gillard told workers at Centennial Coal’s Mandalong mine, in the Hunter Valley, they should ignore scaremongering and said coal companies were making $1 million profit for every worker they employed.
She said with the coal price currently at $300 a tonne, the carbon tax would cost them $2 a tonne.
"There’s a great future in coalmining," Gillard said.
"(Miners) can be secure in the knowledge that they’ve got a future working . . . this mine. If their sons want to follow them to this industry, then they will have a future in coalmining too."
The Mandalong mine has an expected further mine life of 25 years, and Gillard told workers they could be confident they would still be working there until that time.
The impact on the emission intensive coal mines, particularly in New South Wales could be solved by a move towards low-carbon alternatives, Ferguson said.
He told a major LNG industry forum in Tokyo Australia will become the second-biggest exporter of LNG in the world within five years.
In Tokyo, Mr Ferguson said the LNG sector would profit from the shift to a low-carbon economy.
"Gas will be integral to the low-carbon economy, emitting roughly half the carbon per unit of electricity produced compared with coal," he told the conference.
Following the Fukashima nuclear disaster there has been much debate about increasing the uranium industry in Australia and its impact on the environment and economy.
Image: The Australian