The Bligh government was criticised by the opposition for “a secretive dinner” Deputy Premier Paul Lucas, Mines Minister Stephen Robertson, speaker John Mickel, Bligh’s director-general and mining and transport ministers’ chief of staff attended on December 17 at a Chinese restaurant aboard Rinehart’s boat.
Rinehart has $16.5 billion worth of projects under review by the Department of Infrastructure and Planning.
“Queensland, under my government, is open for business. I want to see investment, I want to see jobs, and if that means my ministers need to eat a bit more fried rice, that's all right by me,” Bligh said.
“It is all part of building strong relationships with business and industry.”
Roche said the dinner was far from a “clandestine gathering” but a “cordial get-together over dinner for some state ministers and industry representatives, focused on learning more about one of the most exciting resource projects Queensland has ever seen”
Hancock plans to build the $A15 billion Alpha and Kevin’s Corner coal mines and a 500km rail corridor to create the biggest thermal coal mine complex in the country.
Rinehart has said the Galilee operations would hit 60 million tonnes per annum at full production, have more than 30 years of mine life and generate more than $5 billion per annum in export revenue.
The Queensland government anticipates $450 million per annum of royalties from the operations, which are aiming for initial production in late 2013.
“As someone who also sat at the table, I can confirm that there was absolutely nothing inappropriate discussed,” Roche said.
“What we did learn over a meal is that QRC member company Hancock Coal is bullish about the global demand for thermal coal and that’s why they are proposing to build a complex of coal mines in the Galilee Basin that will eventually produce 60 million tonnes a year, as well as building a new rail line to new export facilities at Abbot Point Coal Terminal, near Bowen.”