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Shadow Minister discusses ALP's clean coal policy at Hunter Valley mine.

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Mon day 12 March 2007

Shadow Minister discusses ALP's clean coal policy at Hunter Valley mine


MARK COLVIN: Labor's environment spokesman Peter Garrett was at a coal mine in the Hunter Valley this morning, selling Labor's new policy on what its proponents called "clean coal". 


The Federal Opposition is pledging to establish a $1.5 billion research fund, to develop technologies to make coal less polluting. 


They say one third of the money would come from the public purse, the rest from industry. 


But the trip had a broader purpose; selling Mr Garrett, a long time environmental activist, to coal miners. 


Our Economics Correspondent Stephen Long was there and filed this report. 


STEPHEN LONG: Peter Garrett delivered Labor's message on clean coal in a district where men still call each other comrade. 


And some would have seen the flag flying above the mine where he spoke this afternoon as somehow fitting. 


UNKNOWN SPEAKER: This is a People's Republic of China flag.  


This is the only Chinese coalmine outside of China and it's a mine that's been very successful.  


It was a mine that was closed for a couple of years with a dreadful fire.  


The Chinese have made the investment and made a real success of the place. 


STEPHEN LONG: A Communist coalmine.  


Those who know the socialist history of Australia's coal-mining union will understand the irony. 


And there was a certain irony too that Peter Garrett, ex rock star, ex Green activist, was pledging that the future lies with coal. 


PETER GARRETT: Of course we've got to give clean coal technologies a go. We've got to use the best minds, the best engineering, the best skills that we've got, and we've got to spend the money to do it properly. 


I'm confident that Australian science, Australian workers, Australian management and Australian business working together on clean coal, can get on top of this issue, reduce emissions and continue to have a coal industry into the future. 


STEPHEN LONG: Labor's Environment Spokesman was talking to the afternoon shift at the Austar mine, about 15kms out of Cessnock in the NSW Hunter Valley. 


Coal miner Phil Dallen wanted to know what the bosses are doing on clean coal. 


PHIL DALLEN: BHP Billiton... these multi-national companies who are paying their directors squillions of dollars, and are putting very little into researching clean coal. Are you gonna talk to those guys? 


STEPHEN LONG: And that's the key to Labor's plan. 


It's pledging half a billion dollars to clean coal research, on the proviso that industry puts up $2 for every $1 of public money. 


PETER GARRETT: One of the key parts of what Kevin Rudd wants to do is spend $500 million, allocate that for a clean coal initiative, but get the companies to go two-to-one with us on it. So we leverage for every dollar the Commonwealth puts up, you get $2 out of it, so you turn your $500 million, into your $1.5 billion. 


STEPHEN LONG: The Austar mine where Peter Garrett was speaking boasts flint hard black coal, high quality product used in steel making, but it would take a lot of whitewash and a lot of years to make it clean. 


PETER GARRETT: I think the great tragedy that we face in this country is that Mr Howard has ignored climate change, for the entire period of time that he's been in office. And so we now have to play catch up. 


STEPHEN LONG: Labor's talking about reducing coal's terrible toll on the atmosphere in three ways: using gas extracted from coal to drive electric turbines; capturing the carbon from coal and storing it; and post cumbustion capture, where the C02 is removed from the smokestacks of power stations and stored. 


But there was another message.  


Labor remembers the disaster in Tasmania before the last federal election, when timber workers cheered Prime Minister John Howard. 


For blokes who regard Greenie as a dirty word, this was about giving Peter Garrett the endorsement of the unions. And ACTU boss Greg Combet was there to drum the message home. 


GREG COMBET: Some people say the coal industry should go. The union movement's position is clear and clearly this; we will fight for every coal miners job in this country.  


Because to address climate change, we do not need to get rid of the coal industry in this country. Thank you. 


STEPHEN LONG: So what was the reception for Peter Garrett like? Well not like the one he used to get when he was fronting Midnight Oil. 


What did the coal miners here think? Any reaction? 




STEPHEN LONG: Peter's... Peter Garrett's words? 


COAL MINER: Yeah look the only reaction I've got, I just hope that everything that they say they're gonna do, they do because our future in the coal mining industry's riding on it. 


STEPHEN LONG: And what was your feeling about what he had to say? Did you... Were you impressed, or skeptical? 


COAL MINER: I was impressed with some but skeptical of others. Yeah, like I said, I'm just hoping that my job's gonna be safe in ten years. 


MARK COLVIN: A miner in the NSW Hunter Valley speaking to Stephen Long our Economics Correspondent.