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Newcastle launch for Greens NSW Clean Energy Future Tour

Blog post by Senator Lee Rhiannon

The launch of the Greens NSW Clean Energy Future Tour in Newcastle was well received. We kicked off in the city mall where I joined Michael Osborne, Newcastle City Councillor, and other Greens members giving out material about the carbon price package.

We received about a 70 per cent take up rate from passersby. The cold wind was not conducive for long chats. My general impression was that people were pleased to receive some information. Many indicated support for the carbon tax while others were still weighing up their response.

Michael and I then joined Gary Kennedy, Secretary of the Newcastle Trades Hall Council, at a media conference to give our joint backing to the Clean Energy Future package agreed to by Labor, the Greens and independent MPs.

For the press conference we sat in front of a large historic painting depicting eight members of the Stockton Colliery rescue team. This is a tragic story.  In early December 1896 possibly 13 miners lost their lives in the underground Stockton mine. Poisonous gas was the cause of death with five of the rescuers also dying due to the gas.

Coal miners have made a massive contribution to this country. Coal fired power has driven the NSW and the national economy for more than a century.

With the burning and mining of coal contributing more than 40 per cent of Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions and solar and wind power now commercially and industrially viable it’s time to change how mining and energy delivery occurs.

Governments have a key role in driving this transition.

I was disappointed to read the comments on the coal industry Prime Minister Julia Gillard made yesterday. She was also in the Hunter and one of her messages was that the coal industry had a ‘‘great future’’.

The Greens policy is for no new coal mines or coal fired power stations.

Greenpeace is calling for the Munmorah power plant in the Lower Hunter to be one of the first to be shut down. It is 40 years old and in need of a major overhaul.

The Labor-Greens climate package includes a “Contracts for Closure” section that will ensure 2000 megawatts of coal fired power generation will be shut down by 2020. The shift away from the coal industry has started.

The scare tactics of opposition leader Tony Abbott and the avoidance of the issue by Labor leaders are not helpful for people in coal communities who are hungry for information on how the transition will work.

I’m looking forward to talking with more people about these challenges on the Greens Clean Energy Future Tour.

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