There are very strong grounds for Australia to phase out the mining of steaming coal as soon as possible and certainly not to promote new coal projects such as Adani. Our planet is increasingly at risk. Protecting the Great Barrier Reef is likely to save and promote more jobs than the few jobs in prospect at Adani. Tourism is a growth industry of the future. Coal mining is a declining and dying industry.
Adani will not provide the ‘thousands’ or ‘ten thousand’ jobs repeatedly claimed by Adani and its short-sighted backers. Its consultant, Jerome Fahrer, is reported to have told the Queensland Land Court that the mine would create only 1,464 full time equivalent jobs.
Compare that with the loss there could be to jobs that rely on the Great Barrier Reef which is now threatened with severe bleaching. We learned from the ABS Labour Force Survey Data for 2016/17 that 37,000 people were employed in tourism in the reef regions alone and far more across the whole state. By contrast coal mining, a very capital intensive industry and the least job-intensive industry there is, employed around 28,000 in the whole of Queensland.
Polling for the Australia Institute in 2016 showed that if severe coral bleaching continued in the GBR tourism areas, there was the risk of losing over one million visitors per year and over 10,000 tourist jobs. Compare that with what Adani offers!
When we look at the growing employment in renewables, we see the same story. The ABS told us that in 2016/17, Queensland and NSW both increased the numbers employed in the renewables sector by more than 1,000 full time equivalent jobs in each state – large scale solar in Queensland and wind farms in NSW. Since then employment in the renewables sector has increased dramatically.
As Ross Garnaut has pointed out, Australia could be the world’s ‘renewal energy superpower’ because of the abundance of its resources – sun and wind. According to the Clean Energy Council the number of renewable energy projects underway or completed was $26 billion in 2018. This was double the previous year’s record.
Whatever way we slice it, employment at Adani is relatively insignificant compared with the possible losses of tourism on the Great Barrier Reef and the accelerating growth of jobs in renewables in Queensland.
On environmental and employment grounds Adani should not go ahead.
Naturally, coal miners in the Galilee Basin and elsewhere are concerned. It is therefore important that, in the decline of fossil fuels, workers in the coal mining industry, together with their families, must be generously assisted in relocation and re-employment.