The Guardian • Issue #2047

“Port Kembla, not Fort Kembla”

  • The Guardian
  • Issue #2047

Port Kembla view from Sublime Point lookout. Photo: Maksym Kozlenko – Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA 4.0).

Last month the Maritime Union of Australia’s (MUA) Southern NSW Branch Secretary Mick Cross welcomed news that Port Kembla will become a large-scale venue for renewable energy projects with a new proposal for the Port’s Outer Harbour to support offshore wind development and other renewable energy projects.

“As the state shifts towards a greater dependency on renewable energy and the price of coal- and gas-fired energy soars, the demand for affordable, sustainable, and clean energy will only increase. Port Kembla’s maritime workforce has a massive role to play in that space,” said Cross.

NSW Ports’ proposal for Port Kembla includes new infrastructure to support the importation and installation of wind turbine equipment for offshore renewable energy projects, as well as meeting future demand for hydrogen projects, and to support green steel production at the nearby Bluescope steelworks.

“The Illawarra Renewable Energy Zone will deliver new investment in offshore and land-based wind farms, large-scale solar projects, battery storage schemes and pumped hydro, all of which will depend on port infrastructure, port services and port workers,” Cross explained.

“It’s a massive opportunity for our sector to grow and deliver long-term, rewarding and fulfilling employment right here in the Illawarra to generations of seafarers and waterside workers,” he said.

However, the union cautioned against Port Kembla becoming the site of one particular potential development, warning that the proposal floated by the former Morrison government to base new nuclear submarines in the harbour would be incompatible with existing operations, let alone any expanded shipping activity arising from renewable energy projects in the region.

“The union’s members are excited by the economic and social opportunities on the horizon for Port Kembla in renewable energy, but we also need to ensure those opportunities aren’t blocked by the dangerous proposal to turn our harbour nuclear and build a base here for the AUKUS submarines,” Cross said.

“The physical and regulatory changes required in Port Kembla to build and operate a nuclear submarine base would not just scare off investor interest in renewable energy, it would put at risk the status quo and all of the jobs that depend on reliable, efficient shipping through our terminals,” he explained.

“The MUA wants to secure our region’s future through sustainable renewable energy projects that deliver safe, secure, and rewarding jobs throughout the supply chain. Nuclear submarines aren’t the future we want for our harbour or the community that depends on it.”

Last week the South Coast Labour Council announced that this year’s May Day march in Wollongong would take place in Port Kembla. “The battle for Port Kembla has begun,” said Labour Council secretary Arthur Rorris, in response to the Albanese government’s plans to station AUKUS nuclear submarines at the port.

“The name is Port Kembla, not Fort Kembla,” said Rorris. “We will not cop lectures about national interests from the spooks and arms dealers.”

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