Much fuss has been made by the major parties about the plight of coal miners, who will lose their jobs as coal is phased out because of its contribution to global warming. Much of this fuss is, of course, blatant electioneering as MPs struggle to save seats heavily dependent on coal mining.
Nonetheless, the problem is very real.
The problem, of course, is how to keep the displaced coal miners in gainful employment.
So far, the major parties have not come up with a solution.
The best they can manage is to joke about retraining them as barristers or hairdressers.
Such jokes are meant to ridicule those who quite rightly point out that we must transition from coal as soon as possible.
They also put fear into the heart of coal miners.
But now miners and their families need not fear, as there is now a very real, practical solution, for the Greens have just unveiled a $19bn plan to subsidise coal workers to transition away from fossil fuel jobs.
Greens Party Room Leader Adam Bandt said Australia must quit coal and take advantage of 'enormous opportunities' in critical minerals and green metals.
It goes much further, of course. As the Guardian Australia reported: "The Greens have proposed a $19bn plan to diversify fossil fuel-reliant towns and subsidise the wages of coal workers who transition into new jobs, saying employees can stay in mining but should seek employment in critical minerals or green metals".
The problem of course is how to keep the displaced coal miners in gainful employment.
Workers would get a decade or more support under the plan, with the Greens' idea seeing the government pay half the wage of their new job in "non-polluting industries" outside the coal, oil and gas sectors.
The focus on transitioning mining towns into new industries comes as the Greens stress their belief that "coal workers haven't caused the climate crisis", three years after former party leader Bob Brown's anti-Adani convoy through Queensland was partly blamed by some for a cratering of the progressive vote in that state.
"Australia is sleepwalking into the closure of the coal industry, but every single worker is being told by the Liberal and Labor parties that they have nothing to worry about," the Greens parliamentary leader, Adam Bandt, said.
"We owe coal workers a debt of thanks for powering our country. We don't need to choose between taking urgent climate action and supporting coal communities. We can do both."
Bandt travelled to the Hunter coal region recently to announce the 'looking after coal workers' policy.
He claimed that resource communities were "being lied to" by the major parties, noting the Australian Energy Market Operator had forecast the closure of more than half of the nation's coal generation capacity by 2030, and virtually all capacity by the early 2040s.
Bandt said the Greens' policy would support the rapid transition away from coal by underwriting half the wage of affected workers for a decade, under a "job for job guarantee" planned to encourage employees to seek new positions - particularly in related fields such as energy and rare metals.
"In many places around the country, the best job for a coal worker is another mining job," he said.
"There are enormous opportunities in developing critical minerals and green metal processing. Australia doesn't need to shut down the mining industry, we've just got to get out of coal."
A $2.8bn fund to diversify coal communities would give out grants to towns to encourage new start-ups, clean industry or upgrade infrastructure to aid in transitioning from fossil fuel reliance.
The Greens also propose setting up new local authorities in resource-heavy regions, including the Hunter Valley, Collie, Bowen Basin and Gladstone, plus expanding an existing authority in the LaTrobe Valley, to help develop such transition or revitalisation plans.
The party's policy documents set out the plan in a conciliatory tone, claiming that "coal workers haven't caused the climate crisis".
"Workers are doing what they can to support themselves and their family. The Greens want to preserve the contributions they have made into their communities over decades," the document continues.
So here we have a sensible, affordable, and socially just plan to solve a difficult problem.
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