Socialist candidate scores top in environment poll

Issue 
Zane Alcorn wants 'public investment in alternative jobs so that coal exports can be phased out'.

Zane Alcorn, Socialist Alliance candidate for the seat of Newcastle, scored equal top in a survey of candidates on environmental issues.

The Hunter Central Rivers Alliance conducted a survey of 17 questions designed to compare the different parties policies on coal and coal seam gas and related issues.

The Hunter Central Rivers Alliance campaigns for “an alternative vision for the Hunter, where sustainable industries, historic communities, and public health are more valuable than the boom — bust cycle of coal industry profits.”

Newcastle is a centre of coalmining and is home to the world’s largest coal port. There is a proposal to expand the industry by building a fourth coal terminal at the port and building another 15 big coalmines in the surrounding Hunter Valley.

Fewer than 10% of Newcastle residents support this plan and are worried about the health impacts of increased coal dust. A vocal community campaign has been running to stop the fourth coal terminal being built and instead switch to renewable energy.

In response to a question about whether he opposed the fourth coal terminal, Alcorn answered: “Yes. The Socialist Alliance want to see public investment in alternative jobs so that coal exports can be phased out in a way that protects the livelihoods of workers currently employed in the industry. The last thing we want to see is any more expansion of coal exports.”

In response to a question about enforcing coal companies to comply with national air quality standards, Alcorn answered: “In the rare instances where mines are found guilty of pollution, the fines are miniscule.

“The Mount Thorley Warkworth mine, for instance, was fined $3000 for failing to implement dust control measures; meanwhile graffiti artists can be fined $2000 and jailed for painting a wall.

“My view is that dust pollution is a far more serious than graffiti and the costs to the state of health damage from dust pollution are quite immense, so the ‘slap on the wrist’ regime needs to be replaced by fines in the millions or tens of millions of dollars which increase if the offence is repeated. There needs to be powers to force the mines to stop work if dust pollution is too high.”

The Socialist Alliance’s policies were judged to be in favour of protecting farmland, aquifers and communities in 17 out of 17 questions, giving Alcorn equal top billing alongside Greens candidate Michael Osborne.