Labor resets approach saying it ‘treasures’ CQ coal jobs
THE Australian Labor Party has hit the reset switch on its messaging about coal saying it "treasures" the commodity and the employment it sustains, following the drubbing the party received throughout Central Queensland in last year's Federal Election.
Reflecting on the 10.7 per cent swing against Labor in Capricornia, Labor's defeated coal miner candidate Russell Robertson attributed the hefty loss to LNP's "scare campaign" on Adani and coal jobs, poor communication from the top-end of his party about its mining commitment, and a significant sway towards One Nation.
Following listening tours of CQ by Labor's replacement leader Anthony Albanese and a contrite apology from Deputy Leader Richard Marles, who said he got it wrong with his 'tone deaf" comments suggesting a potential collapse of global coal markets was "a good thing", Labor's leadership has taken the next step on its road to redemption.
Addressing the Developing Northern Australia Conference in Rockhampton on Monday, Shadow Minister for Northern Australia Murray Watt said the nation was lucky the north had built up vast expertise and wealth in traditional industries including resources, agriculture, and tourism.
"The fact is the north will continue to source much of its power from coal and gas for years to come - and we should treasure every job they create," Senator Watt said.
"As Labor's leader, Anthony Albanese, has repeatedly said, we should continue exporting commodities like coal, iron ore and other minerals, gas, beef and crops to a world that's hungry for them.
"The jobs in these industries are important - to families, to the north and the nation - and they deserve our ongoing support."
But to fully realise these industries' potential, he said we needed to take them to the next level, through diversification and value adding.
In addition to traditional industries, Senator Watt said it was critical emerging industries were harnessed and the north's biggest and most unfair competitive advantage - its vast, untapped reserves of cheap renewable power - was exploited.
By tapping into a "gold mine of solar and wind resources, with massive opportunities in hydrogen and other fuels as well", he said it could make the country a "renewable energy superpower" .
"Besides the obvious environmental benefits, cheap, renewable energy - backed up by batteries, pumped hydro or gas - offers our northern manufacturers the ability to drive down energy costs and really compete with other countries," he said.
"These people and businesses deserve our support, not our scorn.
"That's why in his Budget Reply speech, Anthony Albanese committed to rewire the nation, by modernising our energy distribution and linking renewables to our national energy grid."
Senator Watt lamented that the Federal Government didn't appear to be interested in getting behind some of the newer industries that were emerging and creating jobs across the north.
Coalition politicians question Labor's pivot on resources
Resources and Northern Australia Minister Keith Pitt told The Australian the "threat of Labor to the resources industry can't be undone by a few friendly words from Senator Watt".
He described it as a cynical attempt to claw back votes in Queensland and to keep rogue MP Joel Fitzgibbon quiet.
"This is an individual who, with the Labor Party, voted to try and stop the Coalition delivering on its election promise to fund a feasibility study of Collinsville in north Queensland, a project which will use Queensland coal to deliver Queensland electricity for Queensland consumers," Mr Pitt told the Morning Bulletin on Monday.
"I think you only have to look at what Senator Watt actually does, rather than what he says, and what he does is he continues to work against the coal sector, against the resources sector, and all of those hard men and women who are out there delivering for our country.
"What we see from the Labor Party, who are very clearly divided on this issue, is they've managed to toss out Joel Fitzgibbon, who is quite simply the last person standing in Labor that actually gets it and supports working people.
"Who's now been replaced with individuals like Mark Butler, like Mark Dreyfus who have no interest in supporting resources or regional Australia."
If Senator Watt really wanted to do something for the north and the resources sector, Mr Pitt said he should stand up with Joel Fitzgibbon in the Hunter Valley, stand up next to Mark Butler in Adelaide, stand up next to Mark Dreyfus in Melbourne, stand up next to Anthony Albanese in Sydney, and say the same thing.
"I think the people of regional Australia are sick of hearing a different story from Labor when they're in the regions to what they say when they're in those inner-city areas where they're trying to win votes from the Greens," he said.
Ms Landry said Senator Watt and the Labor Party could say as much as they liked about coal but their actions spoke louder than their empty words ever would.
"The Labor Party have opposed the Coalition Government's plans to provide funding for a feasibility study for a coal-fired power station in Collinsville on at least three seperate occasions in Parliament in lockstep with the Greens," Ms Landry said.
"Even with the Labor Queensland Government, they have left Stage 3 of New Acland mine in legal limbo for over 10 years.
'Yet again, Senator Watt and the Labor Party say one thing in Central Queensland but actually do something totally different in Canberra."
She said a couple of token words and condescending motherhood statements at a conference wasn't going to fool anyone.
"Now that Albo's leadership is on life support, Senator Watt feels the need to waste taxpayer funds to reaffirm his support for his leader in Rockhampton, but the Coalition is getting on with the job of supporting projects which stand to deliver cheaper energy prices for hardworking families and small businesses," she said.
"I believe there needs to be a reliable mix of energy to deliver cheaper energy prices for Central Queensland.
"The Labor Party's constant attacks on coal makes all of the workers in the resources industry very nervous and I don't blame them for feeling nervous.
"The LNP is the only party who doesn't shy away from supporting the resources industry. We are doing everything we can to support the resources industry and everyone who works in it."
Queensland Senator Matt Canavan was approached for comment.
Senator Watt's full speech to the Developing Northern Australia Conference can be read here.