“People in the coal industry know that these jobs are going. They understand that and they are being treated like fools by both sides of politics.”
Dr Di Natale’s comments come ahead of a long-awaited review of Labor’s election loss. Blame is expected to fall heavily on former leader Bill Shorten, who on Sunday took responsibility for the surprise defeat.
“As captain of the team I have to accept the collective responsibility for us falling short,” he said.
“It pains me that I misread some of the mood in Queensland and Western Australia, where they saw some of our policies as Green-left and not for working-class people. It pains me to realise that people thought we weren’t putting jobs first and foremost.”
Labor was criticised for being unable to quantify the economic cost of its climate change policy during the campaign.
It also failed to deliver consistent positions on the Adani mine between the east coast capitals and the bush. In Queensland, which is likely to again decide the next election, the Greens picked up an extra 3 per cent of the vote.
One Nation and Palmer United preferences flowed to the Coalition, helping it secure an extra two seats and win government.
The Adani mine, which will deliver only up to 1500 direct extra jobs, was seen as a symbolic test for party priorities during the campaign amid declining global investment in fossil fuels.
The International Renewable Energy Agency estimates there are now 11 million people working in the renewable energy sector globally, up from 7 million in 2012, but coal-dependent areas in Australia have struggled to transition.
The inquiry into shifting jobs from coal to renewables will hear that the situation is becoming more urgent as a new bank or insurer withdraws from coal every two weeks and the Office of the Chief Economist forecasts a declining market for thermal coal.
The Reserve Bank said on Friday that climate change now posed a financial stability risk.
“Transition risk will be greatest for banks that lend to firms in carbon-intensive industries and to individuals or businesses that are reliant on these firms,” the Reserve said.
Dr Di Natale said the transition to renewables had the potential to create tens of thousands of new long-term jobs across mine remediation, ecological work, wind and solar.
The Greens leader said it was critical to acknowledge “the contribution that people in coal communities have made to Australia”.
“But what is crystal clear is that this change has to happen. It is happening globally and it is going to have a big impact on people in Australia who currently are reliant on the existing coal industry,” he said.,
The inquiry comes as the Morrison government grapples with its response to the economic impact of the drought that is crippling parts of northern NSW and Queensland. It is expected to unveil a new drought assistance package by the end of the year.
Drought Minister David Littleproud became on Sunday the latest cabinet minister to say he believed climate change was responsible. Mr Littleproud said he “totally” accepted climate change was leading to hotter and drier conditions.
Eryk Bagshaw is an economics correspondent for The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age, based at Parliament House in Canberra