A lot of those 50,000 jobs are up there in the north. I know that she, myself and the whole Liberal-National government are there to support jobs in our resources sector and to support jobs in our coal industry. We want to see that thrive and grow.
Senator McDONALD(Queensland) (14:32):
My question is to the Minister for Resources and Northern Australia. Minister, the coal industry contributes around $5 billion worth of royalties for schools, hospitals and better roads across Australia every year, and it accounts for more than 53,000 direct jobs, mostly in regional Australia. Are you aware of any proposals that would put this important industry and the thousands of jobs it supports at risk?
Senator CANAVAN (Queensland—Minister for Resources and Northern Australia and Deputy Leader of The Nationals in the Senate) (14:32):
I thank Senator McDonald for her question, and recognise her strong passion to support jobs in regional Queensland, particularly in North Queensland. A lot of those 50,000 jobs are up there in the north. I know that she, myself and the whole Liberal-National government are there to support jobs in our resources sector and to support jobs in our coal industry. We want to see that thrive and grow.
Unfortunately, there are those who continually try to talk down our nation's biggest export. This week, the Australian National University hosted a forum, and the title of the forum was 'The coal transition forum'. It was here in Canberra, to discuss jobs in North Queensland. At that forum, the shadow minister for climate change, Mr Pat Conroy, gave a speech in which he said that global demand for thermal coal is in structural decline. He said that there's a proactive role for government in achieving a just transition for the coal industry, and he said that Labor will continue to work on alternative policies for a just transition.
Now, when we hear the words 'just transition' up there in North Queensland they sound a little bit confusing. What exactly is a just transition? The Labor Party, thankfully, did actually outline this before the last federal election. In their policy—in their own documents—the Labor Party promised to:
… establish an independent Just Transition Authority to help plan for and coordinate the response to the eventual closure of coal-fired power stations …
And associated mines. They said that the authority will, as a minimum, have the power to implement pooled redundancy schemes for workers in coal-fired power stations and mines. So the Labor Party, the so-called workers party, have established a bureaucracy here in Canberra to put people out of a job! That was going to be the job of the just transition authority under a Labor government here in Canberra. The people in North and Central Queensland aren't fools. They know they're not fighting for their jobs—they're going to put them out of a job. With the Labor Party, we need to understand where they are post election, because Mr Fitzgibbon, the shadow minister for resources, is out there saying that global coal demand will go up. Pat Conroy is saying it will go down. Which one is it?
The PRESIDENT: Senator McDonald, a supplementary question.
Senator McDONALD (Queensland) (14:34):
What would be the impact of such reckless policies on Australia's coal communities, particularly in my home state of Queensland?
Senator CANAVAN (Queensland—Minister for Resources and Northern Australia and Deputy Leader of The Nationals in the Senate) (14:35):
I think it's best, when you want to know what's going to happen in a particular area where change might occur, to actually ask the people who live in those areas. I know and I know Senator Macdonald knows—living in these areas, we talk to people about what might happen if these things happen. People like Mr Kelly Appleton, who's the publican of the Grand Hotel in Clermont in Central Queensland, spells it out very clearly. He says, 'People don't realise that if the mines close so do the towns'. That's exactly what happens. If the mines go, the towns go, the schools go, the petrol stations go, the newsagents go, the jobs go. That's what happens. And that's why we're supporting the development of these communities and supporting the development of our great coal industry, our nation's biggest exporter. We'd like to see it bigger and better and creating more jobs and more wealth for regional towns and more opportunities for the families who live in Central and North Queensland.
The PRESIDENT: Senator McDonald, a final supplementary question.
Senator McDONALD (Queensland) (14:36):
What is the global outlook for the coal industry, and what are the benefits of using and exporting Australian coal?
Senator CANAVAN (Queensland—Minister for Resources and Northern Australia and Deputy Leader of The Nationals in the Senate) (14:36):
Despite the views of the shadow minister for climate change, in fact the outlook for the coal industry, and particularly the Australian coal industry, is a fantastic one. It's fantastic because the growing demand for energy in our region means that countries will continue to demand high-quality resources, and we are lucky enough to have been blessed with some of the highest quality coal in the world. So, that will continue to be a very strong industry for our nation, as long as we allow it to do what it does best.
Indeed, the International Energy Agency predicts that in the next 20 years or so, or by 2040, demand for thermal coal will grow by almost 500 million tonnes of coal equivalent. The Australian industry only produces about 250 million tonnes of coal a year, including our domestic needs. So it's an incredible opportunity for our nation to capture—if we support these jobs and support these regions, and, of course, if we also continue to provide high-quality energy to the rest of the world.