House debates

Wednesday, 17 June 2020


Queensland: Coal Industry

7:44 pm

Photo of Ken O'DowdKen O'Dowd (Flynn, National Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I rise today to talk about my concerns for the coal industry in Queensland. Coal is one of the most valuable exports that we have, and it keeps our prices on the domestic scene as low as possible—or it would if it weren't for the gouging of the Queensland government when it comes to electricity prices. As we approach the Queensland state election in October—and let us not forget the last federal election, where Labor demonised coal to a great extent, particularly in Flynn and in my neighbouring electorates of Capricorn and Dawson—I am concerned that, if the Labor Party win the state election and they win the next federal election, we will have no coal industry at all.

It is very contradictory, seeing as these companies pull a lot of money in royalties, payroll tax, GST and workers' comp—and, of course, they pay big wages to thousands of workers in my area. The Queensland government continue to operate in the red, but they don't seem to realise they'd be much further in the red if it weren't for the coal industry. The Queensland government don't seem to mind seeing small businesses go to the wall while they look to the south-east corner—that's where their votes are. Central Queensland has some of the largest coal deposits in the world. The Galilee, Bowen and Surat basins employ thousands of workers from Queensland and elsewhere in Australia. We do have some fly-in, fly-outs. The coal industry looks after small business too, indirectly. Small business runs alongside the big business in the coal mines of Emerald, Biloela, Blackwater, Moranbah and those towns that rely heavily on the coal industry, whether it be motels, hotels, coffee shops or the like. But here we are, we've got all these natural resources at our fingertips and yet we pay the fourth-dearest electricity prices in the world. This is just terrible.

Turning to manufacturing, if we're going to entice manufacturing back to Australia, we need to get our electricity prices down. Manufacturing in Australia has slipped to about five per cent of GDP. We rate about 179th in the world for manufacturing. This is terrible—when you compare us with Singapore, Israel and Germany, we're not even in the race. If we're going to get back in the race on manufacturing, we've got to have cheaper electricity. There are eight coal-fired power stations in Queensland. One is privately owned by Rio Tinto and NRG, an American company. The rest are owned by the state government. These power stations include Callide B and the Gladstone Power Station—the Gladstone Power Station is the biggest in Queensland—which need upgrading and maintenance. It is up to the state government to do the maintenance in Callide B. I know they have recently spent some money, but they still want to close that site by 2028, and that's the life of the Gladstone Power Station too. So, if we're going to replace those two power stations, what are we going to replace them with? That is the question. I know the Labor government are looking at 50 per cent renewable energy. How are they going to supply the other 50 per cent? I don't think 50 per cent renewable energy is achievable. It certainly won't achieve base-load power. But how are they going to replace those power stations if they close? They won't close down under our government, but if Labor do get in, in state and federal, we're in trouble. They'll want to come up with a plan there.

But it's not only the mines. It's the freight. It's the railway workers. At the Port of Gladstone, which is now one of the biggest ports in Australia, even through the pandemic the tonnage to overseas customers still kept on going, and we've had record tonnages through Gladstone throughout the last three months. That's how important it is to our industry and to our economy.