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Paul Osborne

Unions call for smooth energy transition

A new body is needed to manage the “chaotic” transition from coal to renewables, the union movement says.

Ahead of the jobs and skills summit to be held in Canberra on September 1 and 2, the ACTU on Monday released a report calling for a national Energy Transition Authority.

The authority would ensure workers and their communities affected by the move to net zero emissions are properly supported, through training, reskilling, redeployment and secure job opportunities.

The union peak body said 12 coal-fired power stations had closed in the past decade, in most cases leaving workers and communities devastated.

But there was evidence hundreds of thousands of jobs could be created, and an estimated $89 billion in export revenue earned by 2040, if the transition is managed properly.

Alongside the new authority, the ACTU has recommended a national renewables strategy, a national disaster response capability to deal with climate change impacts, climate mitigation and adaptation policies, access to reliable and affordable energy for households and industries and a net-zero emissions public service by 2030.

“A national Energy Transition Authority will ensure that we don’t have to choose between climate action and good, secure jobs,” ACTU president Michele O’Neil said.

“Through support for skills and training, redeployment, and secure jobs in new industries we can ensure no worker or region is left behind.”

She said the issue should be a focus of the summit.

Meanwhile, Universities Australia says the energy transition requires greater collaboration between universities and industry, and investment in research and development.

It said in a paper released ahead of the jobs and skills summit for every dollar invested in higher education research, five dollars is returned to the economy.

While universities had increased their investment in research and development  over the past decade, Australia’s total investment in the area (1.79 per cent of GDP) had declined to well below the OECD average (2.48 per cent).

While tax incentives had a role to play, other ways should be explored to boost research funding.

“This investment decline must be turned around as an urgent national priority if we are to meet the challenges facing our economy, from developing new technologies and industries to responding to climate change and energy transition,” Universities Australia said in its proposal for the summit.

Signalling the start of National Skills Week, Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said the government planned to provide 10,000 apprenticeship places in the new energy sector. 

“Our goal is to build a strong VET sector to help more Australians get secure, well-paying jobs, while providing the skilled workers that business needs to grow our economy,” he said.

The government has released a top 10 list of in-demand professions over the next five years which included: construction managers; civil engineering professionals; early Childhood teachers; registered nurses; ICT business and systems analysts; software and applications programmers; electricians; chefs; child carers, and aged and disabled carers.

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