NSW Liberal Party Whip Peter Phelps has organised a “Carnival of Coal” evening in early August on behalf of Friends of Coal at the NSW Parliament, with drinks, nibbles and a meet-and-mingle with leading coal industry figures.
In an email to colleagues seen by The Fifth Estate that aroused a “surely they must be kidding?” response, he wrote:
“I will be hosting a ‘Carnival of Coal’ at NSW Parliament House to declare support for coal and associated industries and to send a loud and clear message that action is needed now to protect a secure, inexpensive energy future.”
He also invites anyone who can’t attend to download an image that says “I loved carbon before it was coal” and stick it on their office door to show support, or to take a photo of themselves with, “a miner, a train driver, a power plant worker, a steel worker, a wharfie, a sailor, or any other person whose job directly benefits from the wonderful coal industry in Australia today.”
The Fifth Estate confirmed with Dr Phelps he really did write the email exactly as it was forwarded to us. He said it was a parody in response to the email promoting the Solar Shindig at Parliament House in Sydney next Monday being organised by Greens MP John Keyes on behalf of Solar Citizens. Dr Phelps said his email like Mr Keyes’ invited people to download an image in support of solar and post photos on social media.
But while the email’s wording was supposed to be a parody, he said the event was very real and will be going ahead.
Greens MP Jeremy Buckingham called the move “offensive” to those concerned about the recent approval by the Liberal and National Parties of the massive Shenhua coal mine on the Liverpool Plains, and is calling for Nationals MPs to boycott the event.
“By launching this ‘Friends of Coal’ group… the NSW Liberals have shown a complete disregard for all those who want to see our food bowl in the Liverpool Plains saved from coal mining,” Mr Buckingham said.
“If this is a joke, then it is a cruel joke and shows enormous insensitivity to those whose farms and communities are being threatened by coal mining. All National Party MPs should boycott this event.”
Liberal MLC Scot MacDonald is understood to have emailed a staffer telling them to put it in his diary, with the email inadvertently sent to everyone in the NSW Parliament.
The Nationals may want to consider the current mood of their heartland. The NSW Farmers’ Association today (Thursday) voted at its annual conference to amend its climate change policy and support a transition away from coal and gas to renewable energy sources.
The motion was developed by the association’s Young Farmers’ Council.
“Primary producers are on the front lines of seasonal variability, rising temperatures and more extreme weather, exacerbated by a changing climate,” said Angela Martin, a primary producer from Mullaley.
She said she was “heartened” by the motion ahead of the 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference in Paris in December.
“We want to make sure that the association is in a position to be able to play an active role in the issue,” Ms Martin said.
- UPDATED: This article was updated to reflect the correct punctuation with Dr Phelps’ name, and to correctly name Scott MacDonald as a Liberal Party member (not National).