THE Greens say the federal government can reduce coal dust pollution immediately by imposing conditions on coal haulage on the Hunter’s rail lines.
Speaking at yesterday’s launch at Carrington of the party’s Newcastle local government campaign, the party’s leader Christine Milne and Greens senator Lee Rhiannon challenged the state and federal governments to respond to community concerns about dust with decisive action.
‘‘They [the government] say these words of concern but they have the power to do something about it,’’ Senator Rhiannon said.
‘‘You should not be handing over billions of dollars without putting some conditions on it.’’
The Greens endorsed the Newcastle Herald’s Great Cover Up campaign to have rail coal wagons covered.
‘‘I think the amount of coal dust in the air has always been underestimated,’’ Senator Milne said.
Like other groups and individuals who have lent their support to the campaign, the Greens say public health needs to be the driving factor behind reducing coal dust emissions.
‘‘Health has to come first,’’ Senator Milne said.
‘‘It’s not much good having money in one hand if our health is failing because of the way it is being generated.’’
Senator Milne said the economic future of regions such as the Hunter depended on moving away from relying on coal to renewable forms of energy.
‘‘In Australia people don’t see fossil fuel being on its last legs because of the massive expansion in mining,’’ she said.
‘‘But if you take into account that China is going down the path of thinking about capping coal in 2016, and India is saying we want solar thermal parity by 2020, what happens to a city like Newcastle if you put all your future in the coal basket and then the world says we don’t want to do coal any more?’’