Wednesday, 20 February 2019
Export Finance and Insurance Corporation Amendment (Support for Infrastructure Financing) Bill 2019; Consideration in Detail
(1) Schedule 1, page 4 (after line 10), after item 4, insert:
4A At the end of section 7
(4) EFIC must not perform a function, or exercise a power, to the extent that the performance of the function or the exercise of the power relates to a project that involves, or would facilitate, the mining and export of thermal coal on a commercial scale.
(5) Without limiting subsection (4), EFIC must not perform a function, or exercise a power, to the extent that the performance of the function or the exercise of the power relates to:
(a) providing insurance or financial services or products in relation to a project that involves, or would facilitate, the mining and export of thermal coal on a commercial scale; or
(b) encouraging banks, or other financial institutions, carrying on business in Australia to finance, or assist in financing, export contracts or eligible export transactions in relation to a project that involves, or would facilitate, the mining and export of thermal coal on a commercial scale; or
(c) providing information or advice to any person regarding insurance or financial arrangements available to support the export of thermal coal on a commercial scale.
The Greens have a number of concerns about the Export Finance and Insurance Corporation Amendment (Support for Infrastructure Financing) Bill 2019, and they'll be prosecuted further in the Senate. One thing that is obvious about the purpose of this bill is that it is to lay down guidelines, mandates and powers for how Efic operates with respect to companies here and their activities overseas. In that context, nothing could be more important at the moment, especially when we are on the eve of an election, than to deal with Efic's mandate with respect to coal being mined here and exported overseas. It is especially important to deal with that because we know that this government previously, back in 2017, without seeking advice from the department, changed Efic's mandate so that it could start funding coalmining projects. At the very same time banks were retreating, the then minister, of his own volition—perhaps after receiving some request from coalmining companies and donors; we don't know—changed its mandate. He did it all secretly, and it took freedom of information requests to unearth what the minister had done.
We also know that last year various companies and, indeed, Efic took advantage of that revised mandate and had discussions with companies, including Adani and companies that might supply, be engaged with or be related to Adani, about using Australian taxpayers' money to fund a project at the same time they couldn't get finance. That was, one would argue, very clearly in breach of the purpose of Efic, to the extent that it has a purpose—and the Greens have been arguing for some time that there should be some substantial changes to the law. Even the idea that Australian taxpayers' money would go to support the opening up of the Galilee coal basin so that coal could be exported overseas by a company not owned and run in Australia, but by an overseas company, should have sent alarm bells ringing for many people.
There are a number of reasons why it was wrong: the way the minister went about it; the idea that Australian taxpayers' money would be used to fund something that would ultimately benefit an overseas company; and, fundamentally, from the Greens' perspective, the fact that we would be using taxpayers' money to assist the Adani coalmine. That's all reprehensible.
It is not just the Greens who are saying this, and have been for some time. I understand that other political parties, like the Labor Party, have also said that they oppose taxpayers' money going to support the Adani coalmine. In that context, where we know that there has been a relationship between Efic and Adani and people who might play a role in the Adani project, we are not dealing with a mere theoretical issue of where Australian taxpayers' dollars might go but with a very real issue—one that requires amendment to Efic's charter, if you want to call it that, to prohibit Australian taxpayers' money being used with respect to thermal coal projects, and that includes Adani.
As such, I am moving a simple amendment to Efic's powers and functions. Whatever one might think about the rest of the bill—and the Greens may have a different view—it doesn't touch what the rest of the bill does. To the extent that there's clearly an agreement now between the two parties about reforming Efic's mandate, this wouldn't interfere with that. Unless of course the agreement includes a secret nod and a wink with respect to Adani or some other coal companies, this should not be objectionable. This should not be objectionable to the extent that people think it is wrong that Australian taxpayers' money should go to coal. (Time expired)