Greens leader Adam Bandt last week asserted we need “a government plan that helps workers move out of industries that are shutting down and into other well-paid secure jobs, including in mining’’.
Where exactly those well-paid and secure jobs would come from Bandt did not care to mention. Perhaps that’s because he knows that such jobs do not exist.
From 2009 to 2019, which is the most recently available data, some 76,200 jobs in manufacturing have been destroyed across Australia while just 14,700 jobs in the renewable sector have been created.
This means that for every one job created in renewables five jobs have been destroyed in manufacturing.
Bandt also said he wanted to see new mining jobs across Australia but doesn’t explain why we can’t just keep the high-paid mining jobs that are already there.
More than 95 per cent of jobs in the mining industry are full-time compared with the economy-wide average of 70 per cent.
Mining is also the highest-paid sector of the economy, paying more than double the economy wide average.
The consequences of widespread unemployed concerted in regional communities is well understood. A lost job isn’t just lost income.
Experience from Australia and overseas shows that when the jobs go out the drugs come in. Unemployment unleashes humanitarian devastation on communities, including increases to crime, drug and alcohol abuse and family breakdown.
And when mum or dad loses their job, their kids fair far worse at both school and later in life at work. This is how unemployment entrenches a cycle of poverty and intergenerational social disadvantage.
Sadly, the early closure of Australia’s largest coal-fired power station located in Eraring in the Hunter Valley is just the tip of the iceberg.
Recent research by the Institute of Public Affairs identified that up to 653,000 jobs would be put at risk by a policy of net-zero emissions by 2050, and that most of those job losses would take place in the agriculture, coal mining and heavy manufacturing sectors.
The research also estimated close to 10 per cent of jobs, about 10,000, in the electorate of Hunter would be put at risk.
The assessment that net-zero will cost jobs is accepted across the political spectrum.
Last week, for example, Tony Wood of the Grattan Institute acknowledged “whoever is in government cannot deliver their emissions reduction targets without an impact on emissions-intensive industries and workers’’.
Wood went on to note coal-fired power generation was under threat “because of our bipartisan support to net-zero and the growth in renewables’’ with the growth in renewables driven by state government policy, not markets.
The political blame-game which immediately followed the announcement by Origin Energy reveals an immaturity in Australia’s public discourse.
The early closure of the Eraring coal station means NSW will have a quarter of its electricity supply turned off seven years earlier than previously expected.
And there is no plan for how to replace it.
Federal Energy Minister Angus Taylor was right when he said “anyone who thinks a 700 megawatt battery that lasts for two hours is going to replace a 2800 megawatt coalfired power station is delusional”.
But the government’s plan is also unclear. Having signed Australia up to a policy of net zero emissions for 2050 in November last year, the government can hardly claim to have clean hands.
The danger is now both sides of politics are sleepwalking into a serious national security threat.
China is becoming increasingly assertive and aggressive and is expanding its influence over our economy and our electricity infrastructure.
Some nine in 10 solar panels in Australia are imported from China.
It is unclear if policymakers have considered what might happen if China stops sending the solar panels or if China simply stops buying our iron ore like they did last year when they temporarily stopped importing Australian coal, barely, and wine.
It should go without saying, but a nation cannot defend itself when it doesn’t have control over its own electricity supply and is unable to manufacture basic critical supplies.
Net-zero emissions is no longer just an economic matter. It is a national security risk.
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