2 October 2019

The NSW South Coast Labour Council has launched a Recharge the Illawarra campaign — a push for a local Green New Deal. Arthur Rorris explains: “Port Kembla is geared to make big things. Maybe that is why we dream the big things too: our miners digging coal† to make the finest quality steel in our steelworks; the steel engineered to build wind turbines for the future; and our ports and rail network to deliver that across the country and the world. … So we are borrowing a line from our kids — we are not asking for action we are demanding it. … Let us dig and forge and build the big things. The big things for a decent future for us and our children.” The AMWU’s state secretary Steve Murphy adds that his members “are sick and tired of it being workers versus the environmental movement… We have a real opportunity for workers to be at the forefront of this change, and if there is going to be renewable jobs, for these jobs to be made here. We’re talking to our people in power stations, and they’re saying ‘we’re not loyal to coal, we’re not rusted on’… but what they don’t see is a plan for what their future job is.” It’s great to see the union movement being proactive about the necessary transition to a green economy.

† The coal referred to here is coking or metallurgical coal used in steel production. Some experts argue, “There is no greenhouse issue around coking coal frankly because there is no other way of making steel”. However, Greenpeace says, “In truth, coal is not essential to steelmaking — only to the dirtiest type of steelmaking”, arguing for more recycling of scrap steel as well as a shift to natural gas as a reductant in a cleaner steel production process.