Labor’s coal, manufacturing pledge for Central Queensland
Two federal Labor politicians have made their party’s pitch to Central Queensland during a tour of the region, but there’s still no word on who will run for the key seat of Capricornia.
Queensland Senator and Shadow Minister for Northern Australia Murray Watt and member for Watson and Shadow Minister for Industrial Relations Tony Burke revealed Labor’s stance on mining and manufacturing when they visited the Keppel Brand factory at Yeppoon on April 20.
Speaking outside the crumbed sausage and dagwood dog manufacturer’s site, Mr Watt and Mr Burke made a jobs-centred pitch to make sure casual and labour hire employees got the same pay for the same work, to increase manufacturing, and keep exporting coal.
“What Labor’s about in Central Queensland is more jobs in more industries,” Mr Watt said.
“We’ve just been out in Moranbah, one of the biggest coal mining hubs in this country, speaking with mine workers and showing very clearly that we support the work that they do.
“But we also want to see some more jobs come out of some of the emerging industries like renewables, and I think that’s one of the most exciting things about Central Queensland.
“We’ll continue to support exporting coal from Central Queensland for a long time to come, because that’s needed to make steel around the world.”
He said that was not to say no to new hydrogen and renewable energy projects which could bring down power costs.
These announcements come after the Coalition’s shock win in the 2019 Federal Election after polls had predicted a win for Labor.
LNP seats like Capricornia, Flynn, and Dawson, which were marginal after the 2016 election, swung heavily against Labor in the 2019 election.
Many believe this swing was due to Labor’s environmental policies and the Stop Adani campaigns led by Greens founder Bob Brown, which were met with disdain from residents in Clermont, Rockhampton, and Emu Park.
Now Labor is promoting job stability for miners and the continued export of coal.
“The future of our coal industry is in the hands of our customers. As long as there are people in Japan, Korea, in other countries that want to import Australian coal, then we’ll be supplying it to them,” Mr Watt said.
“In some cases it’s going to be about continuing existing mines, in some cases it’s going to be about opening new ones.
“We’re in favour of new mines as long as they meet the environmental safeguards.
“We’re not the Greens, we’re not saying no new coal mines, we’re not saying close down new coal mines, we’re not saying close down coal fired power stations.”
Mr Watt told said he didn’t think there was a contradiction between achieving net zero carbon emissions by 2050 and opening new coal mines, because other initiatives could cancel out the emissions.
Labor leader Anthony Albanese announced on Monday there would be “well-paid jobs” for people mining lithium, copper and nickel for batteries and renewable technologies.
“There won’t be a new coal-fired power station built because of the changes to the markets,” Mr Albanese said.
Mr Burke said a third of workers had been left without leave entitlements since COVID.
“Labour hire arrangements take away from job security,” he said.
He also criticised the 12-month rosters casual mine workers were on, and hit back at the Liberal National Coalition and One Nation’s vote to make casualisation easier.
No hints of Capricornia candidate
Labor announced that Gladstone mayor Matt Burnett would run for the seat of Flynn.
Mr Watt described him as ‘really well regarded’ across the region.
But there’s still no word on who the party will run for the seat of Capricornia, which takes in Rockhampton, the Capricorn Coast, the Isaac region, and parts of Mackay.
“We’re still going through those processes internally but I expect in the pretty near future we’ll have more to say about candidates in seats like Capricornia,” Mr Watt said.
Ministers echo Albo’s push for manufacturing
Keppel Brand is a Yeppoon-based business that has produced beloved Aussie servo food like crumbed sausages and dagwood dogs for about 30 years, and Labor is using it as an example of stable employment that has flow-on effects for the wider community.
It received a State Government grant of more than $370,000 to help the business grow.
“You couldn’t get a bigger contrast between meeting this morning the mine workers, desperate for a stable job, than the workers down here at Keppel Brand,” Mr Burke said.
“It makes a difference to good business owners like we’ve got here, to be able to get the loyal staff that come from that.”
Mr Watt said anyone who had ever had a Caltex or Puma crumbed sausage had a good chance of it coming from the Keppel Brand factory.
“As a result of State Government support, their company has been able to not only increase the number of jobs here in manufacturing, but to make more of them permanent, and more of them secure as well,” he said.
Labor is planning a $15 billion national reconstruction fund in the hope of boosting Australia’s manufacturing industry.
“What we all learnt after COVID is that we all let our manufacturing industry slip away, it means that we were caught short, we weren’t self sufficient, we had to import protective equipment we couldn’t buy,” Mr Watt said.
“I don’t know why, as a country, we keep exporting raw materials, minerals overseas, so that they can make wind turbines or solar panels and then we import them and bring them back here. I want Central Queenslanders building those kind of things,” Mr Watt said.
Keppel Brand owner Mark Davie said there were a lot of benefits to staff feeling secure in their employment and it was important to keep up with new technology and innovation.
“Any government that’s willing to commit money to helping develop manufacturing industries, they’re an economic multiplier,” Mr Davie said.
“The Americans calculated it 1.34 jobs per manufacturing job.”
He announced beef versions of the Keppel Dogs and crumbed meatballs which would be supplied to vendors for Beef Australia in May.