Clayton Barr - Private Member's Statement

The number 2,463 is incredibly important for my community and me. It is the number of workers who are directly employed in the resources sector—in coal and coalmining. That is 2,463 families who put a roof over their head and food on the table, pay their bills, go on holidays, buy Christmas and birthday presents, have holidays and spend time together, have barbecues in the backyard and the like. Politically there is a lot of language around coal and coalmining and what the future might look like, but it is incredibly important we remember that every single worker in the resources sector has the same needs as the common person. In my electorate 2,463 people go to work in a coalmine. The great majority of those people do not love coal. They do not love what coal is or what it does. They do not have a passion for coal and, quite frankly, a lot of them—particularly the underground workers—simply do not love the unnatural act of going down a dirty black hole. But they do it for their families, for their kids and for their way of life. They do it because they need to work. They do it to get ahead. They do it to create opportunities for their children and their loved ones. Many of those 2,463 workers do it in the hope that their children will not do it.

Sadly and unfortunately, whenever we enter into a political conversation about coal, it quickly descends into a conversation about ideology. The media and some in political circles would have us believe it is as simple as being either for coal or against coal. Quite frankly, it is not as simple as that. Anybody who is sensible, reasonable and rational will admit and acknowledge that. Coal is a resource that has been used in our society for the past several hundred years and, quite frankly—unless we are going to have completely stranded assets worth billions of dollars—probably will be used for the next couple of decades. In all of these conversations, those who work in coalmining communities need to be remembered as decent, fair, hardworking, honest people who are doing what they need to do for their families.

I have heard it said so many times in this great Chamber of ours that the loss of any single job weighs heavily on all of us as politicians. We have to contemplate that every single time. Twenty or 30 years ago, the number of coalminers in my community was in the tens of thousands. Automation has taken away many of those jobs. We understand that. In the future, further automation will take more jobs away. We understand that. In future decades and generations there will be a low appetite for coal and there will be fewer jobs. We understand that. But I urge all members of Parliament, whatever their ideology and whatever their position on coal, to please remember and respect that in my electorate alone 2,463 families depend on that product and their jobs rely on that product. Respect all of those families.