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OPINION: The Arrogance of Idealists

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Lunatic environmental activists chained themselves to railway tracks dangled from high tripods, deliberately putting themselves in the path of the huge locomotives that deliver the Hunter’s high-quality coal to the Port of Newcastle.

These economic vandals disrupted the Hunter’s multi-million dollar coal chain and in doing so, cost our economy millions of dollars. They also held up grain exports and passenger trains. The disrupters are part of Blockade Australia, an activist group opposed to the State’s top export income earner and Australia’s third largest after iron ore and liquified natural gas.

They are young and idealistic and in itself, that is not a bad thing. Civil disobedience has played a major role in the development of fair and enlightened societies and nation states. But the question becomes: have they really thought sufficiently about their cause and the consequences of their actions?

When our activists returned home they’d have given little thought to the luxuries afforded them by a reliable electricity system, the finished products made possible by our minerals deposits, and the wealth our coal exports provide. But they would not have thought at all about the 300 million people in India who tonight, will be without heating, lighting or refrigeration.

That’s because they are idealists rather than realists. Their arrogance is outweighed only by their ignorance.

Around 160 million tonnes of the world’s highest quality coal is loaded through the Port of Newcastle each year. Indeed, the Hunter is exporting more coal at higher prices than ever before. Most of our product is shipped to Asia where wealthy and developing nations alike are using it to generate electricity or to manufacture the steel products so essential to their economies and living standards.

The majority of Hunter coal is thermal product used to generate electricity. Only a small proportion of it is consumed in our local coal-fired electricity generators. The majority goes to fuel the generators of Asia where across China, India, Japan and South Korea alone, 300 new highly efficient coal-fired plants are in the making. Generators which will meet both the household and industrial needs of their people for decades to come.

One measure of a country’s wealth is Gross Domestic Product per head of population. In Australia it’s more than US$50,000 per capita. In China it’s less than $10,000. In India it’s less than $3,000. Those who would have us cease our coal exports, want to keep these people poor. They want to deny our neighbors in Asia the same products on which we built our own wealth.

If successful, they’d only achieve two unhelpful things. First, carbon emissions would grow as our customers turn to suppliers of coal which is less efficient and more polluting. Second, they’d undermine global efforts to reduce poverty, denying our neighbours the tools needed to build wealth and economic stability.

But what really makes – or should make – mainstream Australian’s angry is the lack of respect climate change protestors have for working people.

In the Hunter region, tens of thousands of workers in the coal chain work hard to deliver our coal to market and are proud of the economic wealth they generate in doing so. The foreign exchange their products earn help pay for our hospitals, schools, roads and much more, yet the activists hold them in contempt. It’s a disgrace.

In this 21st Century, around 80 per cent of the world’s energy comes from oil, gas and coal. They power planes, cars, and trucks. They generate most of our electricity and heating. They power our factories and are the main ingredient in the manufacture of most of the goods and devices we rely upon every day, including the personal protective equipment we’ve relied on during the COVID-19 pandemic. For the protestors, ignorance is bliss!

Hon Joel Fitzgibbon MP

Federal Member for Hunter

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