Old king coal rules the road to Clermont - The Australian

To develop our resources for the nation we need politicians to work together

A couple of months ago Bob Brown thought it was a fantastic idea to invade Queensland with an army of hypocritical and condescending activists.


It is the one thing Bob and I agree on: I thought it a fantastic idea, too. As Bob’s convoy reached its destination of Clermont, about 400km west of Rockhampton, an LNP campaign vehicle got stuck in the middle.

Our trusty campaigners reported over the CB radio that “the Stop Adani convoy is about 30 ks out of Clermont”. One of the truckies asked: “Is that what all these effing flags are for?” We confirmed: “Yep, it’s that Bob Brown convoy, they’re here to try and stop that Adani mine.” Well, the truckies exploded. “Look at the hypocrites. They’re using petrol”, and “They’re driving in cars made of steel, which comes from coal!” And much more that can’t be printed.

In my experience there is much more common sense on channel 40 of the UHF band than on social media such as Twitter and Facebook.

The good thing about democracy is every Australian gets just one vote and on May 18 common sense won again.

The common sense that coal is our nation’s biggest export and it would not be a “good thing” if coal markets collapsed, as Labor’s deputy leader, Richard Marles, said early this year.

The common sense that the Adani mine, which would produce about 0.16 per cent of the world’s coal, is not going to blow up the planet. The common sense that if we are to export coal to the world, why shouldn’t we use some of it to provide affordable and reliable power to Australians.

In light of the emphatic support for mining jobs at the election, now is the time to restore common sense to the centre of our nation’s resources policy. For more than 50 years we had bipartisan support for the development of our natural resources and that has delivered enormous wealth and prosperity for all Australians. Both Liberal-National and Labor governments have supported the development of the Bowen and Surat coal basins, the iron ore of the Pilbara, the bauxite of Cape York and Gove, and the copper and uranium of Olympic Dam.

I often recognise the past leadership shown by former Labor resources ministers such as Martin Ferguson, Gary Gray and even as far back as Paul Keating, who spent a formative time as opposition resources spokesman some decades ago. Yet in the past few years the Labor Party has walked away from supporting mining, lured by the siren song of Greens preferences.

Despite popular misconception, there is enormous potential to develop our nation’s resources.

As the National Resources Statement released by the federal government earlier this year showed, in the next decade alone demand for aluminium, gas, copper and coal is expected to grow by more than 15 per cent.

Demand for batteries and renewable energy also will drive demand for lithium, rare earths and nickel.

To develop these resources we need to attract long-term investment and that requires the major parties to support those investments through the political cycle. The sooner we can re-establish unity on Australian resources, the sooner we can attract the capital investment that will create jobs and enhance our nation’s wealth.

A week is a long time in politics and it was amazing to see Labor MPs jump over themselves to support mining and coal in the week after the election. It is a shame that it has taken a threat to their own jobs to support employment in mining.

What we need is not just for Labor MPs in mining districts, such as Joel Fitzgibbon, to support mining, we need ALP leaders to do the same.

If these sentiments are not just words, Labor should immediately commit to no more preference deals with the Greens. If Labor continues to rely on support from the likes of Brown — and the Greens he once led — to form government, the people of regional Australia simply can’t trust Labor.

The people of Clermont will watch closely. Australia owes that town a massive debt. In 1916 Clermont had to be moved after a devastating flood killed 65 people.

And a century later the town has stood fast against a Bob Brown army that came to lecture it, not listen. We would be a stronger nation if we all took more time to listen to the dreams and hopes of smaller towns such as Clermont.

Matt Canavan is the Resources and Northern Australia Minister.

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