A new report by the University of NSW, commissioned by the CFMMEU, sketches two futures for the 8000 direct employees in Australia’s 23 coal-fired power stations: one is a just transition into new jobs with no forced redundancies, emulating Germany’s Ruhr district; the other is the entrenched poverty left by market disruption in coal districts like Appalachia in the US, where pointless ideological warfare takes the place of proper planning. Given that 10 coal-fired power stations have shut down in Australia without a transition plan since 2012, and the Coalition’s science-deniers are in charge of energy policy, still trying to stave off the inevitable decarbonisation, this country is on course for the latter.
Hazelwood was the prime example of what not do: the Greens argued for years for a just transition, but the major parties at state and federal level were in denial. Suddenly, when the time came, workers got short notice and power prices spiked across the National Energy Market, even though the closure was completely predictable. Now, says Sheldon, when AGL does the right thing and flags that it will close Liddell in 2022, “it gets canned for it”.