Recent research found that just 5 out of 59 major solar, bioenergy and geothermal companies meet four basic criteria to protect communities and workers in their projects. Almost half appear to have no basic protections in place. Their record on respect for union rights – on freedom of association and the right to bargain collectively – was especially weak.
Further, some of the companies that did have detailed human rights policies also had a track record of more allegations of human rights abuses – showing a disconnect between policy and practice.
By Peter Colley, National Research Director
One of my sayings about my own profession is that most economists are wrong most of the time. And especially with forecasts. So it was with a forecast of mine back in 2000 that the truck fleets of open cut mines would be mostly automated by 2010.
That forecast was way off, but driverless truck fleets are indeed being implemented across the iron ore industry – just a decade later than I thought! Turns out it has been a great deal more difficult to achieve the needed level of safety, and of reliable operation, than anticipated. Rio Tinto is a leader in the field, but they have now spent a decade automating their train operations in the Pilbara and are just now reaching the point of having driverless trains operating with full loads. It’s taken them several more years and several hundred million more dollars than expected.
The CFMEU has made more progress this week in our fight against exploitation of casual labour hire workers in the mining industry.
A Federal Court order to quash One Key’s substandard RECS agreement follows a lengthy legal dispute over the labour hire company’s business model of driving down costs through cutting workers’ pay and job security. The Court agreed with us that the RECS agreement voted up by just three people was dodgy, left employees worse off and was not legally valid.
Energy sources of the future need to be low or zero carbon if they are to be used in a world that has greenhouse gas emissions set to zero* to limit global warming.
It is this constraint that has seen the future of thermal coal brought into question because, as with all fossil fuels, the burning of coal for power generation releases lots of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.
But there was good news last week from Australia’s Chief Scientist, Dr Alan Finkel, who told the Energy Ministers of the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) last week that Victorian brown coal could be a cost-competitive feedstock for the production of hydrogen gas.
August 2018: Australian coal exports reached $60.1 billion in 2017-18, the highest ever level and only just behind iron ore exports at $61.4 billion. According to figures from the Australian Bureau of Statistics, resources exports accounted for $220 billion of total exports of $400 billion that includes all goods and services (like education and tourism). On these numbers coal accounted for 27% of all resources exports, and 15% of all international trade by Australia with the world.
The Executive today pays tribute to all workers’ resilience and determination to get a better deal after Hazelwood closes – you have stood up and fought when governments, investors and business would otherwise have done nothing.
Tony Maher's speech to the ACTU Just Transition Conference - Canberra - 10 November 2016.
Workers in Australia have spent decades being restructured. It may be inevitable, but they haven’t been happy about it. Especially about the way it’s been done – generally without justice or fair burden sharing. When it comes to Just Transition, I say that we have to give content to what is otherwise only a slogan.
It has taken the dogged persistence and unrelenting determination of our Union to expose the scandalous return of the deadly Black Lung disease in coal mineworkers in Queensland.