Retired Muswellbrook miner Lionel Finlay says the seeds of Labor's shock Hunter vote were sown long ago

RETIRED Hunter coal miner Lional Finlay was not at all surprised when miners turned on Labor at the state election after years of such change in the industry that the "good job" he once knew is barely recognisable.

"I took a job in the mines because it was good money, good conditions and plenty of opportunity. It was a good job. People say today mining is a good job but I don't believe it is," said the Muswellbrook and state president of the Retired Mineworkers Association.

"When I worked in the mines there was that sense of balance that comes with the idea of people working eight hours a day, plus eight hours play and eight hours sleep.

"These days they're working 12-hour shifts, seven days a week. And people wonder why marriages break up and there's suicides. We were getting the same money they're getting now but working half the year.

"I think it's much tougher now."

And that matters for Labor in particular, Mr Finlay said.

"Years ago in politics there were two sides - Labor and Liberal - now they're all saying the same thing," he said.

Mine workers have kept their jobs but their power to fight for conditions against multi-national companies has been eroded, he said. Mr Finlay believed Labor has failed when it comes to ensuring enough of the benefits from mining are returned to Australians.

"These big multinationals in coal mining here in the Hunter now, they don't talk in the millions of dollars they earn, they talk in the billions. Miners want governments to make sure while they're working so hard producing these billions, Australians get a share of the spoils, but they're not," Mr Finlay said.

Labor had "one foot on either side of the fence" on coal during the election campaign, talking about the need for strong climate change action while saying little about what impact that would have on Hunter mining jobs, he said.

The messages were negative, confused and disrespectful of thousands of mine workers who hold Labor partly responsible for failing to stand up for workers for years as significant changes have swept through the industry, Mr Finlay said.

"I know a husband and wife who both work for the mines but that's all they do, work, work, work. Twelve hour shifts. They work and sleep and that's not living.

"I think a lot of miners voted for One Nation or Clive Palmer's United Australia party because they were making the noises people wanted to hear about jobs, jobs, jobs and uniting Australia. People want a united Australia, they want jobs. What the major parties seem to have been best at is getting rid of Australian jobs.

"The problem for Labor is that's expected of the Liberals, but Labor's been in there with them doing it as well."

Labor's support for an end to coal-fired power stations in Australia was also seen as hypocritical, Mr Finlay said.

"When you have Australia saying we can't have more coal-fired power stations but we can send millions of tonnes of coal to South East Asia for coal fired power stations there, well, it's an absolute joke," he said.

Mr Finlay worked at Ravensworth mine for 29 years from the age of 30, after periods as a farmer, police officer and in construction.

"We produced coal for Liddell and Bayswater power stations," he said.

"The most important thing that Labor seemed to forget in all this is the people. They weren't embracing the people. They were using one against the other - climate change v coal - when they really should have seen the people caught in the middle. The workers."