In Hunter, where coal is king, a Labor heartland seat faces a strong Coalition challenge

The ALP has held the NSW electorate at every election since 1910. But with seismic changes under way, the valley’s miners are eyeing the future with unease.

If there’s one place in the nation where the rubber hits the road on Australia’s decades-long discussion about the climate crisis, fossil fuels, mining and jobs – it’s the seat of Hunter. The coal-rich electorate, which spans from Lake Macquarie in the south to north-west of Newcastle, is the epicentre of seismic shifts in the landscape; giant changes which are political, economic and literal in nature.

The economic shift comes as the proud mining region begins to ponder a future after coal. Both the Coalition and Labor are telling the Hunter some variation of “if the world wants to buy our coal, we’ll sell it”, with residents proudly talking up the minerals cut from Singleton and Muswellbrook as the cleanest on Earth; but both sides also spruik the Hunter as a potential global hub for clean energy, hydrogen, green steel and aluminium. Billions of dollars are pouring in. Locals talk of solar panels and transition.

The political change comes on two fronts in Hunter. At the 2019 election, the veteran Labor MP, Joel Fitzgibbon, hung on by his fingernails, seeing his 12.5% margin in 2016 slashed to just less than 3% in the face of a thundering 21.5% vote to One Nation – the far-right party’s best result in the country. Fitzgibbon, who has held the seat for 26 years – he inherited Hunter from his father, Eric, who held it for 12 years before that – is retiring, another political shockwave.

Read the full article published in The Guardian 4th May 2022