Labor MP Trish Doyle calls for regional economic rethink

Blue Mountains MP Trish Doyle has used a speech in NSW Parliament to call for a long term rethink of the economic future of Central West communities such as Lithgow and its surrounds.

With significant numbers of Upper Blue Mountains residents employed in the coal mines and the power stations in and around Lithgow, the Labor MP argued that “the fortunes of the Blue Mountains economy are also tied to our west with the fortunes - or not - of Lithgow and Bathurst”.

While other state governments elsewhere in the country have provided economic stimulus for renewable energy projects such as rooftop solar roll outs in Victoria and the South Australian Telsa battery, the NSW Government has not invested any public money in wind, solar, battery storage or pumped hydro-electric energy.

“The Liberals are only interested in protecting coalmining interests because it represents the big business status quo, not because they care one bit about the plight of a worker from the Blue Mountains who digs coal in Lithgow,” said Ms Doyle.

Blue Mountains MP Trish Doyle in NSW Parliament. File photo.

Blue Mountains MP Trish Doyle in NSW Parliament. File photo.

But Upper House government MP, Shayne Mallard, responded by accusing Labor of “pessimism” and “always talking down our mining industry”.

He said the mining industry “has a long and prosperous future in front of it”.  

In her speech Ms Doyle called on her parliamentary colleagues to think about what the industrial and economic future of towns like Lithgow will look like in 25 years’ time if the state’s dependence on coal extraction and combustion continues to decline.

“Micro-renewables are being taken up by ever more thousands of households and our federal government, along with countries across the globe, is demanding even stronger emissions reductions from State energy utilities. In turn, this will drive new investment in less emissions intensive electricity generation,” she said.

AGL has recently pressed ahead with its plans to close down the Lidell Power Station in Muswellbrook while French multinational Engie decommissioned the Hazelwood Power Station in the Latrobe Valley in 2017.

“I am acutely aware that as Australia transitions to renewable energy we must offer workers employed in the state's Central West a just transition to new jobs and provide them access to training and education that will equip them for those new jobs. It will only be a Labor government that will turn its mind to activating the workforces west of the Mountains and making sure these workers have access to highly skilled jobs with excellent pay and conditions of employment in the long term,” Ms Doyle said.

But Mr Mallard said coal still generates over 80 per cent of the state’s energy needs and is the state’s largest export earner.

“While the transition to clean energy is well and truly underway, the mining industry has a long and prosperous future in front of it,” he said.

“As a major driver of the Central West economy, mining and electricity generation will remain a critical part of the Blue Mountains and Lithgow community for generations to come.

“A portfolio of generation remains very important with solar and wind now among the cheapest forms of new build energy generation. 

“The pipeline of large-scale renewable energy projects in NSW has grown rapidly. Almost 90 projects totalling around 15,500 megawatts are in the planning system, worth almost $20 billion”.

Mr Mallard said the government is focusing on the smooth transition to a modern energy system ensuring reliability and affordability for households and businesses, and the security of our workers for the future.

“With the region’s coal in growing demand world-wide and prices hitting a six-year high in February, it’s hard to fathom why Labor carry such a pessimistic view for the industry.

“Labor are always talking down our mining industry. They cannot be trusted with the jobs of the 120,000 people who are employed in the sector across the state.

“Our government is 100 per cent behind our mining communities. Labor cannot be trusted.”