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Newcastle Herald
Newcastle Herald
Matthew Kelly

'A basic issue of justice': power workers rally for transition support

Power station workers and community and union representatives will gather at Eraring Power Station on Thursday to urge the Federal Government to establish a National Energy Transition Authority in the May budget.

The authority's establishment is seen as critical to assisting communities in regions such as the Hunter transition to a clean energy economy following the closure of coal-fired power plants including Eraring and Liddell.

A diverse range of groups, including the Business Council of Australia and the Hunter Jobs Alliance, have been vocal advocates of the authority's establishment over the past 12 months.

About 500 Eraring Power Station workers are at risk of losing their highly skilled jobs possibly as early as August 2025.

The authority's primary role would be to help plan and co-ordinate the investment of billions of dollars to create new industries and jobs for displaced workers.

Electrical Trades Union acting national secretary Michael Wright said a transition authority was beyond overdue.

Chris Bowen

"The transition to renewable energy is not some distant, hypothetical event. It is happening now and workers and their communities are shouldering the burden," he said.

"When a massive mine or power station closes it has to remediate the environmental mess it leaves but it has no real obligation to fix the social impact of its closure. That must change.

While he didn't specifically refer to the establishment of a National Transition Authority, federal energy minister Chris Bowen acknowledged during a visit to Liddell Power Station on Wednesday that "there was more to do" on the issue of assisting communities during the transition.

Eraring Power Station technician Peter Granger. Picture by Jonathan Carroll

"There's always more to do; we've said that we are constantly on the lookout for more to do. There's a budget in a couple of weeks and look forward to your reporting of it."

Mr Wright described the authority's establishment as a "basic issue of justice" for fossil fuel industry workers whose jobs would disappear in the next decade.

"The fact you happen to work in an emitting industry should not mean you wear the cost of a global shift by losing your livelihood and your community," he said.

"We have been heartened by the reception we have had from federal Labor about establishing a transition authority and are hopeful of good news in the coming Budget. Our Union will relentlessly advocate for all of our members to make sure the transition to renewable energy is an opportunity, not a cost."

An Origin Energy spokesman said, while the company was not the event organiser, it would facilitate access for participants.

The company expressed support for the establishment of a National Transition Authority in its submission to the Economics Legislation Committee's inquiry into the National Energy Transition Authority Bill 2022.

"Origin supports the establishment of the National Energy Transition Authority (NETA) to plan and co-ordinate the response to the energy transition across impacted communities," the submission said in part.

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