South West miners protest at the Critical Horizons conference

Shire of Collie president Sarah Stanley speaking at the Critical Horizon conference in Collie last Friday. Photo: Ashley Bolt
Shire of Collie president Sarah Stanley speaking at the Critical Horizon conference in Collie last Friday. Photo: Ashley Bolt

South West coal mine workers were left furious last week when they weren’t included in the South West Development Commission’s energy futures conference held in Collie.

About 50 workers from the Australian Manufacturing Workers’ Union WA and the CFMEU Mining and Energy Division joined forces to protest outside the conference on Friday morning.

Presentations at the conference focused on a range of energy-related topics, including virtual power plants, off-grid battery power storage, reducing industrially created carbon dioxide and the future of bioenergy.

AMWU South West organiser Brant Softley said the workers were disappointed to be left out of the conference, which discussed the future of energy in WA.

“Whatever discussions are to be had about the future of energy, we want to be a part of them,” Mr Softley said.

AMWU WA state secretary Steve McCartney said the decision to discuss the future of energy in Collie without including the workers who would be affected was an ‘insult’.

“The Collie community and workers have long demanded the implementation of a just transition in the final years of the coal mining industry so this latest exclusion is an insult to a town and workforce that has given so much to Western Australia,” he said.

AMWU protesters. Photo supplied.

AMWU protesters. Photo supplied.

“While those with secure jobs are inside talking about Collie’s future, the workers whose jobs are on the line are left outside.”

Collie-Preston MLA Mick Murray said it was an ‘oversight’ from the South West Development Commission to ignore the mine workers.

“They should certainly have been involved, it’s their futures that were being talked about,” he said.

However, South West Development Commission acting chief executive Rebecca Ball said the coal industry was represented at the conference and workers were able to attend if they wanted.

“It was great to see a good cross-representation from a range of industries and community groups including the coal industry,” she said.

“The speakers offered a balance of perspectives incorporating both traditional and emerging technologies including coal.

“The conference was publicly accessible and people from the local community as well as the wider state were encouraged to register to attend and have the chance to be informed about future trends and ask the presenters questions.”

Ms Ball said the conference was ‘successful in getting people thinking about the changing energy landscape’, but Mr Murray said he was concerned there wasn’t enough focus on creating jobs in Collie and the energy sector.

However, Mr Murray also said he was glad energy minister Ben Wyatt had the opportunity to visit Collie and speak to the mine workers.

Mr Wyatt provided the ministerial address to kick off the conference, which featured presentations about the future mix of energy in WA from community, industry and government backgrounds.