Coal Industry Shutdown


March 8, 2019

When somebody shows you who they are – believe them; the first time!

Last week in parliament, Jackie Trad showed us clearly who she is.

What sort of person is so brutally cheerful about the loss of thousands of coal mining jobs?

What sort of Deputy Premier frightens thousands of workers in her State by saying they should start re-skilling now?

What sort of Treasurer effectively tells the industry that keeps her government afloat that she wants the industry shut down?

What sort of Labor politician deserts the workers to schmooze the well-heeled virtue signallers in West End, Brisbane?

One that is forced to serve two masters in order to keep her seat.

It is only thanks to preferences from Greens voters that Jackie Trad is in the parliament at all.

So now we know, if we had any doubts, that a vote for Labor is a vote for the Greens.

The Greens may have made Jackie Trad the Member for South Brisbane, but it was regional Queenslanders in cities like Townsville, Mackay, Rockhampton and Gladstone who put Labor into government.

The Treasurer would do well to remember that many in these cities are struggling with a high cost of living, high unemployment, youth crime and aging infrastructure. There is no hope of addressing any of these problems in a meaningful way without the royalties from the coal industry she so blithely wants to shut down.

As I write, there is a parliamentary committee hearing into the Member for Indooroopilly’s Mineral Resources (Galilee Basin) Amendment Bill 2018. The Member for Indooroopilly is the sole Greens MP in the Queensland Parliament.

The Bill aims to ban all mining in the Galilee Basin.

In Gregory, I know there are people who passionately want Adani to go ahead and there are people who are passionately anti-Adani. This Bill is not about Adani. This Bill would ensure no mining - at all - in the Basin. Zero, zip, zilch.

When he introduced the Bill to the parliament in October last year, the Greens MP said existing thermal coal mines must be phased out in coming years. The Greens believe the Bill is the first step in phasing out coal mining in Queensland.

Having signalled her support by telling Parliament coal miners should re-skill, Jackie Trad doubled-down by repeating it on the television news that night and in the morning newspapers.

Brace yourself for the next step in the play-book. I’ll bet a “Taskforce” will be formed to over-see the re-skilling. Never mind that the uncertainty will send people to the wall.

They can’t simply stop their lives. They have mortgages on their homes, they have children to feed and educate. They can’t simply put the bills on hold and the kids in the deep-freeze while they “re-skill”.

And will these new jobs pay the royalties generated by the coal miners? Probably not – as the most likely sectors to provide jobs will be in agriculture, transport, tourism and retail.

They tend to pay less as well. When Margaret Thatcher shut down the UK’s coal mines, the mining towns and regions were plunged into poverty so deep that 25 years later a former UK mining town was still ranked the poorest settlement in the EU.

Apparently re-skilling an entire sector doesn’t prevent entrenched, generational poverty for the “losers”.

In Queensland, the coal industry employs 216,600 people directly and indirectly. That’s an awful lot of “losers”.

Our coal is high-quality and in demand. Even if Queensland doesn’t want to use it to generate base-load power, the International Energy Association says there are 202 new coal-fired power stations under construction in China, India, Indonesia and Japan. These should be our natural markets.

Instead, this Treasurer is declaring war on the industry.

I saw, in my lifetime, our Bowen Basin mining industry built. We built it in partnership with overseas investors - the Americans (Utah) and the Japanese (Mitsui).

I have seen, in my personal experience, the benefits mining has brought the entire Bowen Basin region. It is easy to grow used to the improved roads, airports, schools and lifestyles. We forget that parts of the Central Highlands – in eastern Gregory – only got connected to electricity because of the electrification of the coal rail-lines.

So when I see that global mining companies are ranking Queensland behind the Democratic Republic of Congo for certainty of environmental regulation, it makes me sad. We were also poorly rated for regulation duplication and for inconsistency in interpretation of regulations.

This is the world listening to Jackie Trad’s declaration of war. They believe her when she tells them who she is.

Many Queensland primary producers would also rate the Queensland government poorly in these areas.

This begs the question: who is writing and administering our environmental policies? Well it turns out the former head of the Queensland Conservation Council is one of those 28,000 new public servants Labor has hired. He’s now got a comfortable billet in the Queensland Department of Environment and Science, as have two former Greens candidates and campaigners. They are all proud environmental activists.

Last week I asked the Premier during Question Time if she has confidence in the impartiality of the Department’s advice. I also asked if the three could possibly meet the impartiality requirements in the public service code.

She dodged answering at all.

The Courier Mail wrote up last week’s sitting as “vaudeville”, but there is nothing funny about this for regional Queensland.

I cannot believe that voters in seats like Gladstone, Rockhampton, Keppel, Mackay, Townsville and Thuringowa put Labor in power in order to shut down our coal industry.

I hope they are paying attention and believe Jackie Trad when she shows them who she is.