The kids protesting climate inaction in the streets of Wollongong were our kids.
They are the sons and daughters and grandchildren of steelworkers and miners.They are not naive and they haven't been brainwashed. They are angry and anxious because our government and vested interests are stealing their future.
Young students around the world are calling for real solutions. In Wollongong we have a solution ready to go: using our steelmaking capability to build wind turbines for renewable energy.
Australia will need 15,000 MW of wind power capacity to be added to the energy-mix in coming years. This equates to thousands of wind turbines and around 1.5 million tons of steel. That's half of Port Kembla's annual steel production to satisfy one form of renewable technology demand. And that is just for the domestic market.
Port Kembla is geared to make big things. Maybe that is why we dream the big things too: our miners digging coal to make the finest quality steel in our steelworks; the steel engineered to build wind turbines for the future; and our ports and rail network to deliver that across the country and the world.
Our universities and TAFE have taught hundreds of thousands of workers in metals, electrical, mining and other trades and technologies. Our workers have the skills to get the job done.
The big question is whether Australian workers will have the chance to forge this change in production, or will it fly out overseas like other manufacturing jobs?
In 2015 our steelworkers made great personal sacrifices to save the Australian steel industry and to spare our region from economic depression. It would be a slap in the face for our steelworkers and our miners if Scott Morrison does not take action to secure these jobs and looks the other way while these massive projects are completed with imported steel, fabrication and engineering.
This week marks 10 years since the release of the Green Jobs Illawarra Action Plan. The Premier, council, Wollongong university, TAFE and unions all backed it. But nothing has happened. Our industrial capacity and the challenge of climate change is still there but the political will has disappeared, and with it the investment and policy backing needed to make the plan a reality.
So we are borrowing a line from our kids - we are not asking for action we are demanding it. We say let Wollongong and its workers do the job they have always done. Let us dig and forge and build the big things. The big things for a decent future for us and our children. We have both a right and an obligation to do it. A future where we can point to a wind turbine anywhere in Australia, and say "we built that in Wollongong". It's simple. Back the plan and let's recharge the Illawarra.
We want our children going to bed at night knowing the parents of Wollongong, the Illawarra and regions across the country are working to save the planet and to put food on the table. After all, they have a right to a decent future.