The contribution clean coal can make to our energy mix

Often we think about the coal sector in this country as the exports that we provide to the rest of the world, and it is true that around 90 per cent of the coal we produce is exported to other countries. It provides those countries with a low-cost source of power and an ability to make steel, but, of course, it is still an essential part of our own energy mix. It accounts for just over 60 per cent of our electricity sources in this country. On the eastern seaboard, in the National Electricity Market, more than 70 per cent of our electricity is generated by coal. We need coal to keep the lights on in this country. We need coal to make sure that we can provide cheap, affordable and reliable power to our manufacturing sector. We need coal to help those jobs.

Senator O'SULLIVAN (Queensland) (14:30): My question is to the Minister for Resources and Northern Australia, Senator Canavan. Can the minister advise the Senate what contribution clean coal can make to Australia's energy mix?

 

Senator CANAVAN (Queensland—Minister for Resources and Northern Australia) (14:31): I thank the senator for that question, a senator who I know is a strong supporter of our coal sector—as is this government. We are a strong supporter of the thousands of Australians who work in coal. We are a strong supporter of coal jobs. We back coal jobs, we back the wealth that they create and we back the ability of those jobs to help people own their own homes, put their kids into school and live a good and decent life as Australians. It is an incredibly important sector.

Often we think about the coal sector in this country as the exports that we provide to the rest of the world, and it is true that around 90 per cent of the coal we produce is exported to other countries. It provides those countries with a low-cost source of power and an ability to make steel, but, of course, it is still an essential part of our own energy mix. It accounts for just over 60 per cent of our electricity sources in this country. On the eastern seaboard, in the National Electricity Market, more than 70 per cent of our electricity is generated by coal. We need coal to keep the lights on in this country. We need coal to make sure that we can provide cheap, affordable and reliable power to our manufacturing sector, for those manufacturing jobs that Senator Carr so eloquently tries to defend. We need coal to help those jobs.

Senator Hanson-Young interjecting—

Senator CANAVAN: We need coal, and that is why this government is backing coal: so that we back jobs in this country. If you want to back jobs in Australia, you have to back our coal sector. If you want to back jobs in manufacturing, you have to back coal—there is no other way we can have it. Our coal industry can contribute to our goals to be cleaner and more environmentally sustainable. The latest and most advanced forms of coal-fired power can bring down emissions by up to 30 per cent. If we replaced our entire coal fleet with these facilities, they would bring down emissions by up to 27 per cent in the coal sector. They are part of our solution, they are part of our energy mix, and this government supports them. (Time expired)

The PRESIDENT: Senator O'Sullivan, a supplementary question.

 

 

 

Senator O'SULLIVAN (Queensland) (14:33): Can the minister further advise how countries in our region are embracing high-efficiency, low-emissions technology in the development of their energy mix?

 

Senator CANAVAN (Queensland—Minister for Resources and Northern Australia) (14:33): Thank you for that question. The latest coal-fired power technologies are making advances and are being rolled out right across our world—most especially in our region. We often say that we are part of the Asia-Pacific region. Well, if we are truly part of it, we should be making sure we look in our region to what solutions are being found there. Across the world there are more than 700 high-efficiency, low-emissions coal-fired power plants.

Senator Hanson-Young interjecting—

Senator CANAVAN: There are a huge number of coal-fired power plants—there are more than 200 being constructed right now in the world. This represents more than 100 Hazelwood coal-fired power stations. We have all heard about Hazelwood and its importance; more than 100 of them are being built right across the world. This shows that the world is still looking to coal for a cheap and affordable source of power. It is something we should also consider as part of our energy mix, and it is a good thing that the world is doing this, because it is such an important part of our economy and our prosperity in this country.

The PRESIDENT: Senator O'Sullivan, a final supplementary question.

 

 

 

Senator O'SULLIVAN (Queensland) (14:34): Can the minister explain how the government is focused on ensuring that Australia's energy resources are being used to develop our economy and to create jobs?

 

Senator CANAVAN (Queensland—Minister for Resources and Northern Australia) (14:34): I thank the senator for that question. Our coal sector is very important. As I said, it exports a huge amount of resources—

Senator Hanson-Young interjecting—

The PRESIDENT: Point of order, Senator Williams?

Senator Williams: I am trying to listen to the answer from Senator Canavan and all I have heard through the whole three questions is Senator Hanson-Young interjecting. Could you ask her to be quiet so that I can listen to this very interesting answer, please?

The PRESIDENT: Thank you, Senator Williams. I remind all senators not to interject during the answering of a question and to listen to the minister in silence. Minister, you have the call.

Senator CANAVAN: Thank you, Mr President. As I was saying, our coal industry contributes $34 billion in exports to our economy. It is the second largest export in our country, and, while those exports are very important, we should also seek to consider to use those resources in our nation to create good, high-paying jobs for Australians. Coal does not get clean on the boat. If it is clean to be used overseas, it is clean to be used here, and we should be taking advantage of that resource to develop our industry and our manufacturing sector. As we develop the coal resources of the Galilee Basin, they amount to an enormous opportunity to build on the strong metals manufacturing industry we have in North Queensland. We have the minerals and the low-cost energy sources and we should be smart enough as a nation to harness them to create jobs for Australians.

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