September 7, 2015

ony Abbott tries to strong-arm Newcastle Council to abandon community over coal

(NEWCASTLE)- After two weeks of growing support for the Newcastle City Council’s decision to divest its $269 million portfolio from fossil fuels, Prime Minister Tony Abbott and his Federal Government colleagues are trying to strong-arm Newcastle Councillors into rescinding their divestment motion.

A recent Fairfax poll found that 91% of readers were in favour of Council’s decision to divest. Earlier today, hundreds of Newcastle residents emailed messages of encouragement to Councillors after learning of the rescission vote tomorrow.

“With his 38 percent approval rating, if Tony Abbott is against you, you’re probably doing something right,” said Emma Giles a longtime Newcastle resident and community campaigner with Australia. “My advice to members of the Newcastle City Council is to stand strong in their vision for diversifying the local economy away from coal.”

Opponents of Newcastle’s divestment decision argue that it will hurt jobs. In fact, the coal industry only employs 2 percent of Newcastle’s workforce and most of the profits end up overseas rather than supporting the local community.

Newcastle City Council, which agreed to support environmentally and economically responsible investments, is being heralded as a community champion by a public that is eager to move beyond the stranglehold of coal in exchange for development of renewable energy, cleantech and other sustainable industries.

“The Hunter Valley’s wine tourism industry has exploded, ushering in more than 2.8 million visitors every year and injecting $1.8 billion annually to our state economy. These numbers are poised to grow year after year, but our sector hangs in the balance if the coal industry continues to have carte blanche to mine us out of existence,” said Stewart Ewen, Chairman of Hunter Valley Protection Alliance

“The fact is, grapes and coal don’t mix. The Newcastle’s divestment vote demonstrates that the Newcastle Council is betting on a prosperous future for our region. We can get there by investing in sustainable industries, not by hitching our waggon to outdated fossil fuels.”

Despite mounting public outcry, Tony Abbott continues to align himself with the coal industry, most notably with his continued support of the plan to turn the Great Barrier Reef into a coal shipping super highway. As one of the most hated proposals in Australia’s history, Abbott’s association with it and other unpopular coal expansion proposals, are doing irreparable damage to his job approval numbers.

“As Tony Abbott continues down his self destructive path with the coal industry, our Councillors’ decision to take the path toward a clean and renewable energy future is the right one. There is no reason to turn back now. The public wants the fossil fuel divestment vote to be upheld,” said Giles.

Contact: Krista Collard, 0424 712 034,