Green Jobs ‘Dopey’ says Australian Union Leader

  • Published on September 15th, 2009


The leader of one of Australia’s most influential unions has said that green jobs is a ‘dopey term’. Tony Maher went on to suggest that many of the environmental campaigns run in his country are ‘judgemental nonsense’ and that industries like coal and steel will have more impact on both prosperity and the creation of a low carbon future than people realised. As an example, he claimed that carbon capture and storage schemes would require vast amounts of steel and that this steel should be produced in Australia by Australian workers.

Union fights for blue-collar jobs, not green-tinged ones

Maher is President of the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union, a constellation of workers that might look odd in many other parts of the world where ‘green’ industries like Forestry have separated themselves from extractive industries by putting logging in with extraction and keeping woodland husbandry and tree surgery in with farming.  For over ten years, Tony Maher has spoken on behalf of the union, which states in its publicity material that it is the principal union for both brown and black coal mining. Brown coal is relatively recent in origin and falls between peat, which is still largely vegetable in structure, and bituminous coal. It is often known as lignite.

Many people feel that brown coal should not be extracted because it should be kept as a reserve for the distance future when it may have developed further and become more like bituminous coal or black coal, which is more consolidated, deep black in colour and burns more readily with greater fuel efficiency.

Union leader says more coal, not less, will be burned in 2050

It’s not surprising that a union leader representing coal minders should object to ‘green jobs’ but Maher went much further than simply protesting against the removal of blue-collar industries, he added that he thought that by mid 2050 the planet would be using twice as much coal as at present and that the recent protest at Hazelwood power station was ‘just silly’.

Hazelwood Protestors Get Direct

‘Switch Off Hazelwood’ the campaigning group that organised the protests claims a successful weekend’s protesting, with more than 300 people turning up over 12 and 13 September, to use such direct action tactics as the Bikezilla (a number of bicycles welded together to form a giant bike, which was impounded by police), the Ministry of Energy, Resources and Silly Walks, the wombat warriors and forming a giant windmill with their bodies.  The police say 18 people were arrested, the action group says it was 22 individuals who were arrested and then released on bail.

While protestors said that removing Hazelwood could be the first step to creating an employment-rich, renewable energy manufacturing region, Maher’s comments suggest that the opposition to renewable energy is entrenched in the old blue-collar industrial regions as a threat to well paid jobs, as well as being perceived as a threat to lifestyle. Maher added that Australia produced some of the best-quality coking coal in the world, which was used to make premium quality steel and that it was ‘silly’ to raise objections to industries that created a large amount of Australia’s exports.

Switch off Hazelwood: Starring the Wombat Warriors courtesy of Sean Bedlam at youtube

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  • Just to add a few points that this article misses or misreports:

    Firstly, there were over 500 people at the Hazelwood community protest, there were 22 arrests, the 18 figure was an early one. There were over 230 people who camped the previous night, and many more who showed up on the Sunday.

    And Tony Maher, really, what planet is he on. To say we will be burning more coal in 2050 is insane. If that is the case then say goodbye to human civilisation. He is either a climate change denier or just stupid. He is also going against his own union leadership in the Latrobe Valley, who recognise the extreme danger of climate change and have also realised that clean coal will never happen. The Gippsland Trades and Labour Council is already working on a transition plan for the Latrobe Valley away from coal.

    Finally, the direct action involved trespass onto the Hazelwood site to deliver "Community Decommission Orders". The heavy police presence meant that only 22 people were able to get over the fences, as police would pounce on anyone who tried. Still, the socially mainstream nature of the action made it clear that the social licence to burn coal had been revoked, and that we need to urgently transition out of coal if we are to give ourselves any chance of avoiding runaway climate change.

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