Release date: 30/04/2010

Key transport unions today said that Premier Keneally’s decision not to attend the official opening of the Newcastle Coal Infrastructure Group’s (NCIG) terminal on Monday should send a clear message to NCIG executives that it needs to reconsider a non-union agreement struck during the dying days of Work Choices. The Premier announced today that she shared the concerns of the transport unions and said “I do not and have not ever supported the Workchoices.”

“While Federal Law is not within State Powers, I have concerns about industrial relations conditions and the NCIG decision to register and use  an agreement  in the final days of the Federal Workchoices laws”, the Premier said in a letter to the Transport Unions Federation. 

“Further, the Australian people delivered an unequivocal verdict on Workchoices in the 2007 Federal election. 

“It’s unfortunate that NCIG and the labour movement have been unable to progress a way forward to resolve this matter emanating from Workchoices and the new export coal facility. For this reason I will not be attending the ceremonial opening of the Newcastle Coal Infrastructure Group scheduled for Monday May 3”, Ms Keneally said. 

The State MP for Newcastle and Minister for the Hunter and Tourism, Jodi Mackay, had also declined an invitation earlier in the week.

The no show list for the event is now considerable and includes Federal Minister and MP for Charlton, Greg Combet and Federal MP Newcastle’s Sharon Grierson, who said other commitments precluded them from attending.

Newcastle’s Lord Mayor, John Tate, and NSW Minister for Ports, Paul Macleay, also said they would not be available.

NSW Minister for Planning and Infrastructure, Tony Kelly, and NSW MPs including Charlestown’s Matthew Morris, Wallsend’s Sonia Hornery, Cessnock’s Kerry Hickey, and Swansea’s Robert Coombs, who earlier this week made clear they would decline invitations. Coombs instead will join speakers at a community rally organised for 8am on Monday morning at the entrance to the terminal at Kooragang, an hour before the commencement of the official opening of the terminal at 9am.  

Liberal Member for Port Stevens, Craig Baumann, also said he would not be going and was happy to publicly join those declining.

“The Premier is to be congratulated on her decision. It’s not just that NCIG’s site agreement is non-union and struck in the dying days of Work Choices, but it is 17 percent lower than those for workers at the existing Port Waratah Coal Services (PWCS) terminal. It is divisive and unsustainable”, said National Secretary of the MUA Paddy Crumlin.

“This new coal loader at Kooragang is largely automated and will employ some 21 workers and at full capacity the value of NSW exports will rise by $3 billion so it’s difficult to understand where management are coming from on this”, he said.
TWU national Secretary, Tony Sheldon, said there needs to be a balance in the way coal companies treat the local community as they go about their business.
“There are millions of dollars in profits coming out of the Hunter region now and for the foreseeable future. The companies responsible need to ensure that they do not undercut the community rate of pay for vital wok in the industry,” he said.

Newcastle Trades Hall secretary Gary Kennedy wrote to the Premier and MPs asking them not to turn out for the official opening at the BHP Billiton-backed NCIG’s terminal at Kooragang on Monday morning and asked for their public support. 

Media contact: 
Seth Tenkate 0408 463 199 
Michael Meagher 0410 482 367


All Media Items Share This