The Hunter Valley, NSW, is an interesting place to live – combining heaving industry and mining with the natural beauty of the Hunter Valley – vineyards, beaches, lakes and waterways. Every weekend those employed by the heavy CO2 emitters take advantage of the great outdoors in sports that Sydney neighbours wouldn’t dream of participating in. Hunter Valley residents don’t want climate change to affect their leisure but they also want to keep their jobs.
It should be no surprise that civilised debate about climate change occurs in the lunch rooms of a city where the BHP Steelworks once reigned. Coal mining is still a booming industry in the region and with easy access to this resource, some of Australia’s largest users of electricity reside in the Hunter.
The unions representing these workers cannot support an Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) but some are fearful to speak out publicly lest there be ramifications from city head offices – run by people without the first clue of the rigours of work in industry let alone the process itself. Or they fear consequences within the larger body – the Australian Labor Party – which appears to be contemplating suicide by killing off those whom they used to hold dear. The steel industry, the coal industry and the aluminium industry – the heart and soul of the Australian economy – would all be ruined if the new Left had their way.
On the other side are those with a ‘Green Conscience’ whom, without logic, campaign for almost living in squalor rather than mining and converting coal to energy. Evidence of this are their life threatening attempts at protests against the aforementioned industries.
This is why Professor Ian Plimer’s latest contribution – Heaven and Earth – is fascinating to residents of this region. The contribution is a step-by-step scientific analysis that could be understood at the most basic level of scientific knowledge. At the book launch in Maitland, attended by plenty of supporters, sceptics, academics and unionists – those generally interested in debate rather than blind emotion – Professor Plimer emphasised that he did not support pollution but CO2 in itself was not pollution. And the ETS, he said, was just a “tax on the sixth element of the Periodic Table”.
Launching the book at a local drinking hole was John Maitland, the former National President of the CFMEU. Maitland’s activism against the absurd ETS and government lobbying shows that those labelled by the media as ‘sceptics’ aren’t just from the right of politics – National Party MPs, conservative Liberals and Family First Senators – but that there is real concern within the ALP. The fact that the CFMEU is aligned to the Left of the ALP gives rise to the probability that sections of the Left and Right may defeat the ETS on the floor of the Labor Party Conference later this year.
What Rudd will do after that is anybody’s guess.
An ETS will destroy the Hunter Valley, Newcastle and the port operations which export to the world, and the likes of Maitland and other union leaders in the region are right to work with their businesses to defeat a “tax on the sixth element of the Periodic Table”. Now they have a sound scientific argument to support their claims.
- Aaron Russell