RET agreement needed now, thousands of jobs at stake: AWU boss

The Australian Workers Union’s national secretary
has told a newspaper that both sides of politics needed to stop dithering and
reach a compromise on a new Renewable Energy Target.

The Australian reports that the AWU’s Scott
McDine was “sick of hearing” that a compromise was getting closer, when both
the Coalition and Labor’s positions are so similar.

“We have both major parties agreeing that
it is in the national interest for aluminium to be exempt from the RET, yet
Canberra is still forcing the industry to stagger around with a an $80 million
anchor tied around its neck,” McDine told The Australian.

“The MPs involved here need to think about
the working lives that are at stake.”

He stated that thousands of workers’ jobs
were at risk, and that punishing the industry would merely make sure aluminium
making would be sent to nations with less strict emissions standards.

The intervention will pressure opposition
leader Bill Shorten, as the AWU – which Shorten himself used to head – is one
of the ALP’s most powerful unions.

Last week the ALP rejected a compromise target of 31,000 gigawatt hours per year from renewable sources by 2020. The
target is currently 41,000, with the Coalition previously stating it wanted a “true” target of about 26,000 GWh.

It follows the Australian Industry Group’s
request last month that both sides hurry up and put their small differences in
position aside and settle on a target.

The minor differences over a revised RET –
whether
it should be lowered from the current 41 terawatt hours in 2020 to the ‘low to
mid 30s’ or the ‘mid to high 30s
’” – should be settled immediately, wrote the AiG’s Innes Willox.

The uncertainty in RET has driven investment in the renewables sector to 70 per cent below what it was a year earlier,
according to research by the Climate Council published in November.

Image: Reuters