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Monday, 28 February 2011
Page: 1686

Mr STEPHEN JONES (10:12 PM) —I would like to say a few words about climate change, carbon pricing and the importance that getting this policy right has to the people I represent in the electorate of Throsby. Like many members in this place I have the great benefit of representing a region where I grew up, where I went to school and where I have spent the majority of my working life. If you spend that much time in your electorate you get to know it well and you get to know the concerns, interest and fears of the people who live there.

Since early white settlement the Illawarra has drawn a significant part of its income, wealth and employment from coalmining and, since the 1920s steel manufacturing has been a significant part of wealth creation and employment creation in the area. Over that time, we have been through many changes. We have seen the structural adjustments that were necessary in the 1980s to ensure that we continue to have a viable steel industry in this country. Throughout the 1980s we also saw a significant change in coalmining in the Illawarra as mine ownership changed, the price of coal on international and local markets changed and there was a significant number of mine closures in the Illawarra area.

What I know from all of this is that structural change—economic change—can affect people in working-class communities very, very hard. I and the people of the Illawarra also know that what is even harder than structural change is the failure to make those changes as and when they are necessary. When I left school the steelworks employed something in the order 23,000 people. A few years ago it employed fewer than 9,000 people and today it directly employs, on contracts, around 5,000 people. Those changes have been very difficult on the area but we know that unless we had made those changes there would be no steel industry at all in the Illawarra today.

We know that climate change is something that we cannot avoid. We live beside a mine, beside a steel mill and on the coast. Climate change is already having an enormous impact on our environment and an economic impact. We can either strive to have the most efficient and effective manufacturing industries and coalmining industry in the world or those industries simply will not exist in the years to come. It is with this in mind that I am very keen to have a mature, informed debate on the importance of fixing a carbon price to ensure that we can manage that economic transformation.

It was not without any surprise that we witnessed, the day after the Prime Minister made the announcement about our resolution to introduce a carbon price into the economy in 2012, the CEO of BlueScope Steel come out and make a speech representing the interests of his shareholders, as he is entitled to do, in ensuring that manufacturing, particularly steel manufacturing, would still form a vital part of our national and local economies. He also said in that speech—something that has not been picked up on by many members in this place—that, as a father, as an Australian, as a resident and as the CEO of a large manufacturing company, he saw that it was essential for us to introduce carbon pricing into the Australian economy because it was the only way that we were going to drive the necessary transformation in the way we generate electricity in this country—something that he sees as in the national interest.

We look forward to engaging with employers like BlueScope and the representatives of the workforce who are doing a lot of work in this area: representatives of the AWU, the major union at the BlueScope Steel, and the South Coast Labour Council. The member for Cunningham and I are working hard to ensure the views of the people in the Illawarra are represented as we work through this important area. I take my hat off to the representatives of the local unions and businesses who have been working for over two years to be in front of the curve by working on green jobs initiatives. We will be working hard with those local representatives to ensure we manage that transformation with green jobs.

In closing, I cannot avoid saying that the interventions of the leader of the opposition in New South Wales have not been helpful in this debate over the last week. (Time expired)