Influential billionaire Mike Cannon-Brookes believes Australia needs to be honest with coal workers that jobs in the industry will disappear over the next two decades.
The Atlassian co-founder appeared on a panel alongside Energy Minister Angus Taylor and Labor’s resources spokesman Joel Fitzgibbon on Friday.
Mr Cannon-Brookes said it was time for politicians to be straight with coalminers about the industry.
“I would say honestly you don’t have a future,” he said.
“You don’t have a future. Twenty years from now you will not have a job.”
Mr Cannon-Brookes pointed to the million jobs plan, which is before government, to create 1.8 million roles with 70 per cent in regional Australia.
He said Peabody Energy had shed half its jobs in the NSW Hunter region, where Mr Fitzgibbon’s electorate is.
“Whitehaven is down 75 per cent. Why? Because they’re stuffed. We need to create more jobs in other areas, yes, but we need to transition.”
Labor’s resources spokesman Joel Fitzgibbon said his fellow panellist was a “bit of a dreamer”.
“Mike thinks if you just throw enough money at it, you can make things happen quicker. That is true. He’s a businessman,” he said.
“The question becomes ‘Whose money?'”
He said the Peabody job losses were driven by coronavirus-induced market shocks.
Mr Cannon-Brookes, who is estimated to be worth more than $12 billion, defended his lofty ambitions for renewable energy.
“I have a good record of getting shit done alongside the dreaming and I will continue to do that,” he said.
He said Mr Fitzgibbon and Mr Taylor didn’t understand the size of Australia’s economic opportunity and the renewable transition the world was making.
“This is a train we can’t stop,” Mr Cannon-Brookes said.
“We have the biggest opportunity on the planet as one of the sunniest and windiest continents.”
Mr Fitzgibbon also accused the energy minister of lacking ambition on emissions reduction, urging him to back the net zero target by 2050.
“If you’re going to go on weight loss, you’ve got to have an ambition. You’ve got to say I’m going to lose six kilos or 10 kilos,” he said.
Mr Taylor said Australians wanted reliable power without prices being driven up as the country switches to more renewable energy.
“The transition, while it’s going at an extraordinary pace, has to be managed and pragmatic in the way we go about it,” he said.