GREENS leader Richard Di Natale has proposed a direct levy on coal miners to fund ‘‘billions of dollars’’ worth of environmental rehabilitation work on former coal mine and storage sites, as well as the retraining of coal industry workers for the clean energy jobs of the future.
In one of the party’s most important policy markers leading into the pre-election period for a 2016 poll, Dr Di Natale will unveil the plan on Tuesday and will use an address to the National Press Club in Canberra on Wednesday to flesh out the details.
‘‘As coal companies go bankrupt or leave Australia, it is coal workers who are hit the hardest, followed by state governments, who are regularly left to foot the bill for cleaning up the mine,’’ Dr Di Natale said.
The compulsory payments, likely to be opposed by the industry and the federal government as a form of industry-specific carbon tax, would contribute to ‘‘a Federal Trust Fund for the companies to access at the conclusion of their operations’’.
Underpinning the policy is research by US-based clean-energy ‘‘think tank’’, the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis, which has found the current slump in coal prices is ‘‘structural’’, meaning it is not going to improve markedly and will instead continue its downward trend.
‘‘The report concludes what many market analysts have been saying for some time – that the rapid decline in Australia’s coal exports in recent years is not a cyclical blip but a structural and terminal decline that will not recover,’’ Dr Di Natale said.
‘‘This scenario creates two major public policy challenges: how to transition thousands of jobs in the sector; and how to pay for billions in clean-up and rehabilitation costs for dozens of disused coal mines.’’