Hunter MP Joel Fitzgibbon has challenged the National Party to address employment inequality within the mining industry as part of its blitz on his seat and the region.
A procession of Nationals, including Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack, have been visiting the Labor heartland in the past fortnight to spruik the coal industry's future.
While they are yet to name a candidate, senior Nationals have made no secret of the fact they are eyeing off the Seat of Hunter, which Labor holds by a 3 per cent margin.
Mr McCormack, who visited Testers Hollow, Singleton and Muswellbrook on Tuesday, will be followed on Wednesday by New England MP Barnaby Joyce, Lyne MP David Gillespie and Resources Minister Matt Canavan.
Mr Fitzgibbon, who has fallen out with his party over its energy and climate change policies, said he was not fazed by the Nationals' challenge.
"I welcome the attention, it can only be a good thing for our region," he said.
"I call upon them to back my push against the excessive use of labour hire companies and increasing casualisation in the mining industry.
"There are plenty of infrastructure projects to be funded too."
The Nationals' blitz of the Hunter comes a week after the state government passed legislation to make the Hunter a renewable energy zone.
The zones, which have also been created in the state's Central West, New England and South West, are part of the government's renewable energy infrastructure road map.
The roadmap aims to encourage $32 billion worth of private spending on renewable technology over 20 years, with incentives for energy businesses to set up in the renewable energy zones.
While at Testers Hollow, Mr McCormack deflected a question about how the growing renewable sector would coexist with coal.
He instead gave a strident defence of the coal industry.
"I will let the NSW government speak for itself but I know the Nationals behind me are very much in support of the resources sector, very much in support of those resource sector jobs," he said at Testers Hollow.
Despite the growth of renewables, Mr McCormack said the coal industry's future was bright.
"We (the Nationals) are backing it because the coal industry provides two thirds of our energy needs, we are backing it because the coal industry provides $66 billion in exports which funds a lot of hospitals and schools, we are backing it because the coal industry provides jobs for 55,000 people, most of them in regional areas."
Mr McCormack made the comments while standing alongside state Upper Hunter MP and Nationals member Michael Johnsen, who moved an amendment last week in support of establishing the Hunter Renewable Energy Zone.
"I have been asked about my views around renewable energy, but never have I said that it has to be one thing or another," he told Parliament.
"In fact, we have an opportunity for strong energy generation, whether it be powered by coal, nuclear, hydrogen, gas, hydro, solar, wind and/or any other source that is working for our community."
"If it is going to provide jobs and safe, cheap and secure energy for the state of New South Wales, I will be in favour of it. It is pragmatic and will only add to the prosperity of our region and the state of NSW."
Muswellbrook mayor Martin Rush said planning and collaboration would be essential as the region moved to a low carbon future.
"The thermal coal industry has between 20 and 30 years in our estimate. That is not a long time to manage a structural transition in a community that produces 12 per cent of globally traded thermal coal," he said.
"There are no examples of a successful transition of coal mining communities globally.
"But we know from successful transitions in other industries that planning and collaboration are two essential ingredients."
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