Unions call for Net Zero Economy Authority as matter of urgency

Media Release - July 2, 2024

The ACTU and regional coal and gas power workers today called on the Greens and Senate cross benchers to pass the Net Zero Economy Authority Bill.

The NZEA Bill needs to pass the Senate to set up a new Authority charged with supporting workers and communities to thrive through the energy transition.

Speaking in Canberra, ACTU President, Michele O’Neil and workers from impacted communities stressed the Net Zero Economy Authority has an urgent, important task ahead of it, as industries like coal-fired power stations start to phase down.

Australia has at least five coal-fired power stations and four natural gas-fired power stations slated to close before 2030, which currently employ thousands of workers and contractors.

The Net Zero Economy Authority, led by Reserve Bank Board Member Dr Iain Ross, will provide workers in these industries and their communities with access to new supports including retraining, redeployment, and financial assistance. The Authority is tasked with driving new jobs and clean investment projects into their regions.

New jobs in industries including green hydrogen and critical minerals will support the regions and workers that have kept the lights on for generations to continue powering the country as it transitions to net zero.

The NZEA Bill is a historic achievement and places Australia among the growing number of countries—including Germany, Spain, and Canada—that have legislated systems to support a just and orderly energy transition.

Quotes attributed to ACTU President, Michele O’Neil:

“This Authority is long overdue and today we call on all members of the Senate to get the job done and vote to support this Bill this week.

“Power workers made redundant due to plant closures over the last decade have experienced intense personal and economic fallout. One year after they lost their job, those workers had experienced an average 69 per cent drop in earnings, and four years out still earned less than half of what they had before.

“This sudden widespread drop in employment, earnings and job security has rippled through communities, causing lasting damage to workers, their families and communities.

“That’s why we must do better this time. While the Opposition is peddling a far-off nuclear fantasy, the Albanese Government Net Zero Economy Authority Bill will make a real practical difference to deliver support, retraining, redeployment, investment and jobs now into communities like Gladstone and the Hunter to build new clean industries and support workers and families.

“Peter Dutton wants these coal communities to swallow a dangerous, wildly expensive industry that won’t create a single job for decades. These communities can’t wait around till the 2040s for jobs. The Government’s Net Zero Economy Authority delivers worker supports and new industrial opportunities now—not in 15 years.”

The ACTU Network

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