Tuesday, 20 March 2018
Questions without Notice
My question is to the Minister for Resources and Northern Australia and relates to a matter that's very important to my state of Queensland. I ask the minister if he could give us details of the value of coal exports out of Queensland and, in particular, out of Central and Northern Queensland, which I try to represent as well as I can in this chamber.
I thank Senator Macdonald for his question and recognise his longstanding support for a very important industry in Queensland. He understands well how important the coal sector is for the economy of Queensland. The strength of the North and Central Queensland economies certainly does track the strength of the coal sector. Not only does Senator Macdonald know and support that but we saw in results in a poll published in The Sunday Mail on the weekend that 80 per cent of North and Central Queenslanders agree with the statement that the coal industry is very important to the economy and jobs in Central and Northern Queensland. That's why we support it and that's why we back it.
It has been a couple of tough years for the sector, as prices fell and some projects were mothballed, but things are on the improve, with coal prices more than doubling in the past 18 months, coal exports increasing by 35 per cent last year and three mines are reopening: Blair Athol, Collinsville and Baralaba. This is great news for the coal sector because, as Senator Macdonald indicated in his question, the revenue from this sector that benefits Queensland and this country is substantial. There were $36 billion in exports last year from Queensland; nearly $3 billion in wages to over 20,000 employees; and $4 billion in royalties to the state of Queensland. In addition, $11 billion is spent by the coal sector on goods and services to supply that industry.
That means it's not just the people employed in the sector that benefit but also people like Brad Hamilton, who I met last week, who runs a small business in Mackay called Diacon Australia. He supplies goods to the mining sector and his business is intimately linked to the strength of that sector. It goes further than that. I met Roger Penrose last year at Great Keppel Island. He manages the resort there and is a third-generation miner. He understands the better the coal sector goes, the more people come out to the reef and the more people go through the tourism sector. If you want to support the economy of Northern and Central Queensland, you have to support the coal sector.
I thank the minister for that very important information. Minister, could you indicate how the value of coal to Queensland would be increased by the anticipated production from the developments proposed in the Galilee Basin?
Senator Macdonald knows well how important the opening up of the Galilee Basin is. According to figures from the Queensland government, the six proposed mines there could deliver more than 15,000 direct jobs to the Queensland economy. That is very important. There are 29 billion tonnes of coal potentially to export and sell from that sector. If we're able to do that, it will create a lot more job opportunities for people.
Senator Macdonald lives in Townsville, so he knows that the Adani company is there right now employing nearly 200 people in what the opposition likes to describe as fake jobs. They think these people are currently in fake jobs. They are real people, some of whom have moved their real families up from Brisbane to work in Townsville, to contribute to the economy, and we want to sustain those jobs. The new leader of the Nationals, Mr Michael McCormack, also understands the importance of those jobs. He visited Adani's offices in the last fortnight, something I don't think any Labor politician has done yet.
Could I ask the minister if he could clarify approaches from other people to coal mining in Queensland, because in Townsville we have some elected representatives who are giving very conflicting views. I ask the minister: is aware of approaches from other political parties?
Members on this side of the chamber and in the other place are not embarrassed about talking to people who work in the coal industry. We regularly go and talk to them, including Adani, who have opened up the only headquarters of a mining company in a regional town. You'd think the party that calls itself the Labor Party would be going to meet labourers and workers, but on Mr Shorten's recent holiday visit to North Queensland—funded by the Australian Conservation Foundation—he literally flew over the Carmichael mine site and landed at the Doongmabulla Springs and had a look at the springs but didn't meet any people. I have been to the springs. They are important springs and we should protect them, but we should also protect people. We think springs are important but we also think jobs are important. We think birds are important, but we also think people are important. That's the approach that a proper party that wants to represent this nation would take.