We are in one of the most challenging periods in Australia's history, facing a future of high unemployment and economic uncertainty.
But what if we had a clear plan for how Australia can come out of this crisis with 1.8 million new jobs across the nation, and more than 50,000 jobs in the Hunter Region alone over the next five years?
That's exactly what Beyond Zero Emissions' new Million Jobs Plan does. Developed through extensive consultation and research, it shows that we can modernise and decarbonise our industry, and reskill our workforce for a prosperous society.
All across Australia, especially in heavy industry communities and bushfire and drought-affected regions, we can create thousands of jobs by backing low-carbon solutions. It also invests in our future, and sets us on the path we need to take.
The roll-out of 90GW of renewable energy in five years underpins the plan.
This will enable manufacturing to be powered by renewable electricity. Other recommendations include retrofitting homes and building new zero-energy social housing dwellings; processing green metals; and land restoration.
The plan isn't about abstract numbers. It is the story of opportunities that are within reach for communities such as the Hunter right now.
Specifically, it is a plan for more than 50,000 jobs over five years, and 115,000 jobs over 10 years, with 24,000 jobs ongoing.
How will these jobs be created?
First, bringing the entire Hunter housing stock up to a six-star energy rating will create 10,000 construction jobs a year over the next five years, and create comfortable homes with lower energy bills.
Second, repairing the Hunter Valley's landscape, which has been transformed by years of mining, drought, and bushfires. Mine restoration could employ almost 1900 people a year for five years.
There's another 360 jobs in reforesting and 200 jobs in helping farmers practice carbon farming. Critically, 200 indigenous rangers can help manage the land and waterways using traditional knowledge.
Third, we can solve the Hunter's contamination problem by cleaning up the fly ash left over from coal-fired power stations. Sydney-based Vecor Australia can process the fly ash not suitable for concrete in a way that locks up the heavy metals and then manufacture tiles, coarse aggregates and engineered sands.
Vecor is willing to come to the Hunter given the right policy and investment support. From a feasibility study to a pilot, then establishing a renewables-powered factory, the company could employ 400 people by 2025. The timeline and location can align with the closure of Eraring power station.
Fourth, green metals manufacturing could tap into growing global demand for zero carbon products as companies seek to eliminate carbon emissions throughout their supply chains.
Zero-emissions mineral processing operations would give rise to zero emissions metals-the new commodity exported through the Port of Newcastle. This is a new way to export energy - renewable energy embodied in the metals.
US-based Boston Metals is commercialising a green steelmaking process called Molten Oxide Electrolysis (MOE) that puts iron ore in a chemical solution and passes an electric current through it to produce high-grade crude steel. If the electricity is from renewables, the only gas released from this process is oxygen.
Boston Metals may consider the Hunter as a pilot site-making us home to Australia's first fully electric MOE factory, employing 100 people and producing 100,000 tonnes of crude steel a year within five years.
Fifth, the Hunter is the best place to manufacture 8000 zero emissions buses that are part of the NSW Government's Net Zero Emissions Plan.
The Hunter is the best place to manufacture 8000 zero emissions buses that are part of the NSW Government's Net Zero Emissions Plan.
Hunter industries have no shortage of innovation and agility. Businesses that now serve mines and heavy industries can create the smart systems, components and charging stations for a zero-emissions transport system.
The Hunter's future is bright.
If the Million Jobs Plan is realised here, we can become a major manufacturing and export hub, and a preferred global supplier for zero carbon solutions.
This is our moment to embrace a zero emissions future.
With so much momentum towards self-determination and diversification among Hunter residents, businesses, and stakeholders, we can create a viable, realistic path towards a prosperous future for everyone.