Galilee Basin (Coal Prohibition) Bill 2018

The Galilee Basin (Coal Prohibition) Bill 2018 demonstrates that the Greens are the John McEnroe of this parliament. They cannot cop an umpire's decision. They cannot cop the decision of the umpire when it comes to doing environmental assessments. They always like to call on the umpire's decision when it goes in their favour. When the umpire makes a decision to restrict a project or stop jobs being created under our environmental laws, the Greens will very quickly point to that and say, 'See, that demonstrates what we have been saying, and it should be adhered to.'

Whenever that same umpire—in this case, the departments of environment at state and federal levels—makes a decision that the Greens don't support or don't agree with, the Greens immediately come in and say, 'No, it's all wrong, and we've got to ban it anyway.' What is the point of having our environmental laws if you are only going to accept decisions when they go your way? We have very robust laws in this country that assess major projects in our nation, like those that are in question here, with this bill, like those in the Galilee Basin. They go through an incredibly rigorous environmental assessment process.

This morning I would like to briefly recap on the process that was gone through for Adani's Carmichael mine, which is one of the potential mines that are subject to this bill here today. We have very robust environmental laws. The saga of the Carmichael mine goes back to 2009, more than 10 years ago, when Adani first acquired a licence. It actually starts before then, I suppose. Linc Energy previously owned this area. They were looking for gas but eventually sold it to Adani when they found more coal than gas in the area.

For those that may not know, it does bear repeating exactly where this mine is. It's just under 400 kilometres from the coast of Queensland. It's west of Mackay, which is probably the major town, so a long way inland. The closest town is around 150 kilometres away at Clermont. It's a long way away. This is in a new coal basin but, really, it's in a new frontier for our nation. There hasn't been any major development in this part of Queensland to note. There are some cattle properties but not many people live in this area. The properties are largely run remotely or by staff that fly in, fly out. It is a long way away from other things that go on in this country. It is a very beautiful part of our country, though. It's an area that should be protected. I've been to the Carmichael site a number of times. I'm not sure if Senator Waters has been there, but I've been there a couple of times. There are some environmental assets in the region. I've been to the Doongmabulla Springs, which is one of the assets in question, and there are some threatened species as well.

All of these things have been assessed to death over the 10-year period that Adani has been looking at this mine. Take, for example, one of the threatened species: the black-throated finch. It is an important bird in our ecosystem that must be protected. Adani has spent around $1 million assessing the extent of the finch on its property, what can be done to protect it. Adani has spent more money on the finch than almost—well, we think—anyone else ever has before. In fact, one of the original conditions the Queensland government's coordinator-general imposed on the Adani project—back in, I think, 2015—was that the Queensland government should develop a black-throated finch management industry for the whole state. Guess what? Five years on, the Queensland government hasn't done that.

Adani were also obliged, under those conditions, to do a management strategy for their site—and they have done that. It's all mapped out in public and in great detail. They will reserve 30,000 hectares of land close to their Carmichael mine site, which will be turned into a finch habitat. We in fact know a lot more about the finch itself and how to protect it, thanks to the research Adani funded. We didn't know a lot about how the finch bred, how it ate and where it liked to nest, but, because of the work that was done through this project and funded by a commercial entity, we now know a lot more about that. And this area of 30,000 hectares that Adani will be protecting will be better for the finch thanks to that research and knowledge.

Something that the Greens will never admit—and will never actually admit here in this debate—is that it's often through these large projects and large investments that we're able to fund the environmental work that makes our country a better place. The governments aren't doing it. The Queensland state government aren't funding protection for the black-throated finch, despite their protestations over the last couple of years. The federal government doesn't have the money to do it all. We rely on people who have an incentive to protect their environment as well as to sustainably develop it to make these investments, and that is what has been done here.

Likewise, the Doongmabulla Springs, which was the scope of a lot of controversy, is an important permanent water source, especially for the cattle industry in the area. It is, I think, a state government listed environmental asset. It is not listed on any national registers, but it is an important permanent water source. It's about 12 kilometres from the mine site. Its exact location of renewal, where the water comes from, is the subject of some debate, as is often the case with things that happen underground—and a lot of science has to be done. Again, we know a lot more about the Doongmabulla Springs, the original springs, thanks to the work that Adani has done, which has been checked by the CSIRO and by Geoscience Australia. It all went through a rigorous process, showing what Adani has to do. Adani have to monitor water sites around the mine and make sure that the Doongmabulla Springs continues to be renewed and stays as a permanent water course for that area. All of that work has been assessed. All of that was assessed by experts like the state government Department of Environment and Science, the federal government Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment, the CSIRO and Geoscience Australia. All of those assessments came back saying that this mine could occur and that we could meet our robust environmental laws.

But, again, I return to the point that, for the Greens, it's not about the local environment—it's not about the Doongmabulla Springs or the black-throated finch. If they cared for the finch they'd welcome the funding that Adani has put aside for this bird. For the Greens, it's all about ending the coal industry. That is what this bill is about. It's not about protecting the local environment. It's not even about protecting the global environment, which I will come to. It's about ending an industry that employs thousands of Australians, that provides billions of royalties to state governments to fund public services and that provides billions of taxes to our country. The Greens want to end the coal industry because it is their political platform. It's a political propaganda that they have engaged in that they see some kind of political benefit from. It's not about the global environment. If it were about the global environment, why do the Greens never mention the contribution of Australia's coalmining industry to the globe's production of coal?

Senator Waters: 
It's huge.

Senator CANAVAN: 
I'll take that interjection. Senator Waters is claiming in her interjections that the Australian coal industry has a huge impact on the world's coal production. These figures are not in debate; it is very easy to establish these—and Senator Waters is free to go and Google and find out this for herself. Australia's coal industry produces five per cent of the world's thermal coal—five per cent!

The Greens will come in here and say, 'We're a large exporter.' We are a large exporter. There's not a lot of coal traded exported across the sea, because it's heavy and it's costly to do so. Most coal is used close to where the electricity, heat or whatever is generated out of it is made. So, while we produce five per cent of the world's coal, China produces 50 per cent of the world's coal and uses almost all of their coal in their own country. India's coal production is more than double our coal production. The United States produces more coal than we do, and so does Russia. We are not a large coal producer when it comes to the world.

Why do we export our coal? Why are we a big exporter? As I said, coal is quite heavy, and it is costly to freight and transport. It has only been in the last 50 years or so that the world has established a seaborne coal trade. Before that, the world's industrial revolution all happened with domestic sources of coal. The reason we export our product to the world, the reason we bear all those costs, is that we have an extremely high-quality product. We have high-quality coal that is rich in energy and low in ash, nitrous oxide and sulphur oxides. That is good for the environment, and the reason people are willing to pay high prices for our coal is that environmental benefit as well as the energy content that is inherent in that coal. That's why we export that coal: because it has that high energy content, it means you produce fewer carbon emissions for the burning of the same amount of coal and generate the same amount of electricity.

So, if we as a parliament were to pass this bill, denying the world our efficient, productive, environmentally beneficial energy resources, it would be a bad thing for the world's development and for the world's environment, because if you take away the coal that comes from the Galilee Basin, which is roughly—it varies—5,500 kilocalories per kilogram, you would be left with Indian coal. Senator Waters seems to support the Indian government not buying Australian coal but using their own coal. India's coal is typically around 3,500 kilocalories per kilogram, so our coal is about 50 per cent more efficient than India's coal. So you'll be delivering 50 per cent higher carbon emissions to the world if you use Indian coal compared to Australian coal. Those are the facts that the Greens do not like to hear.

More important than that is that our coal and gas—our energy—help develop the world and help the world achieve better outcomes for poor people who do not have the luxury of the energy resources we have.

      Senator Waters interjecting

The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT ( Senator Fawcett ):
Senator Canavan, resume your seat. Senators on my left, standing order 197 makes it very clear that interjections, except to call a point of order, are disorderly. Please desist.

Senator CANAVAN:
Thank you, Mr Acting Deputy President. If I had the opportunity, I wouldn't be calling it disorderly, because they're helping me progress this argument.. The Greens seem to be claiming that there's an issue with trying to make poor people rich and trying to help those who are less fortunate than us. The fact is that we have over our generation, over the last 30 years, had this remarkable development where poverty in our region, the Asia-Pacific region, has gone from where it was 30 years ago, when two-thirds of people in the region lived on less than US$1.90, to today, when that figure is 2.3 per cent. In 30 years—or 35 years now—it has gone to 2.3 per cent. Over that period of time, fossil fuel use in our region has gone up to a level more than eight times as high, and coal use is more than six times as high, helping fuel that economic growth, that opportunity and that advancement that has helped poor people who are less fortunate than us have a better life. That is what our coal industry provides.

It's also the case that, while the Carmichael mine is the one proceeding in the basin, there are other proposals. There are five other mines that are in various stages of environmental approval. There are other mines that Senator Waters mentioned that aren't in that process yet. All of those six mines together, including the Carmichael mine, could deliver 16,000 jobs directly in our coalmining industry. The coalmining industry employs 50,000 people at the moment, and it powers the vast majority of the economic wealth of Central Queensland. Now we have an opportunity to increase that by, potentially, a third and deliver even better results and more opportunities for our people here as well as providing those benefits overseas. That's why we should be supporting this.

Before I end, I note that, as Senator Waters said, I don't think this bill is going to come to a vote today. I'd be happy to bring it a vote, because I'd like to see where the Australian Labor Party fall on this issue. Since the election, they have purported to somehow support the coalmining industry and the export of our coal, but then last week they said they're going to have net zero emissions by 2050. Over the weekend, we've been hearing we can have net zero emissions and still have coalmining as well. What a joke! What a fairytale that Anthony Albanese and the Labor Party are trying to tell the Australian people!

Senator Canavan, remember to use the correct title for members of the other place.

Senator CANAVAN: 
Mr Albanese, the member for Grayndler, and the Australian Labor Party are trying to tell the Australian people a bedtime story about their policies here. You can't have all your cake and eat it too. If you want to have a coalmining industry, you can't say we're going to join radical countries around the world and try to cut carbon emissions to zero in 30 years. Then we have this magical concept that we're going to still keep coalmining but then we're just going to plant a whole lot of trees on farmland and take away farmers' right as compensation. That is the policy of the Labor Party. We have either one or the other. If we have net zero emissions, we've got to shut down the coalmining industry or take away property rights from farmers and put a lot of trees on their land, which would reduce our cotton, rice and sugar production, to pay some kind of penance or buy some kind of indulgence in order to have the continuing ability to produce cheap and affordable energy for the world that can help develop people who are less fortunate that us. That is, now, the once proud Australian Labor Party, which was established in Central Queensland, in Barcaldine, defending shearers' rights, and which purported to defend workers' rights throughout its very proud history of well over 100 years. It is now selling out workers on the global altar of purporting to say something—not do something—about the issue of climate change.

I don't think we should sell Australian workers out. I'm not going to sell our nation's workers out on this global altar. I will defend our right to have jobs here, to develop industry here and to keep our economic wealth here, and I will do so in a way which is realistic, which is up-front with the Australian people and which does not seek to hoodwink them into believing some kind of modern-day fairytale that we can all have our cake and eat it too. We have a choice. We can reduce our carbon emissions, but we can't do it in the radical way the Australian Labor Party is proposing.

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