Coal industry to face hostile Greens in Senate

THE coal mining industry is bracing itself for a scenario where the Greens hold the balance of power and the elevation of outspoken coal critic and New South Wales upper house member Lee Rhiannon to the Senate after the next federal election.

Lou Caruana

The Greens party is expected to do well in the August 21 poll, especially in marginal inner city seats in Sydney and Melbourne, and has indicated the Minerals Resource Rent Tax should be increased by $600 million to reduce taxes on small business.

Coal and iron ore magnate Clive Palmer has called on the federal government to make its preference deal with the Greens for the upcoming election transparent.

“It defies explanation as to why the Greens want to cripple this country and attack the industry which successfully kept Australia from recession,” he said.

“This statement by Senator Brown sets a dangerous precedent for Australia’s economic prosperity after the August 21 election.”

The government’s recent compromise with the mining sector over the proposed resource super-profits tax will be rendered “null and void” by any intervention by the Greens in the Senate, he said.

“Just when the industry thought this issue was settled, the Labor Government and the Greens have again shattered confidence in the best performing and most profitable industry in Australia.”

The Greens’ lead candidate for the Senate in NSW, Rhiannon will be making coal a front and centre issue of her campaign.

Rhiannon has listed one of her key priorities as real action on climate change, with a shift from coal to renewables.

She resigned this week from the NSW Parliament in order to campaign to become the state’s next Green senator.

“NSW needs a strong Greens voice in the Senate and I’m looking forward to the campaign,” she said.

"I will continue my work alongside coal communities and farmers for a future beyond coal and take the battle to save the south east forests to Canberra.”

The NSW Greens party has led the campaign for “No New Coal” developments in NSW, according to their website.

“The Greens want coal-fired power to be phased out in place of clean, renewable energy. Coal industry jobs could be replaced with sustainable industry jobs if the Government showed some leadership and funded the growth of sustainable green energy industries along with supporting communities during the transition period from coal to renewables.”

In May 2009 Rhiannon introduced the Mining (Safeguarding Agricultural Land and Water From Mining) Amendment Bill 2009 into the NSW Parliament. The bill seeks to stop mining developments – all mining, but particularly coal – encroaching on prime agricultural land.

Chief executive of the NSW Minerals Council Nikki Williams said the mining industry won’t stop talking about important issues in regional NSW just because an election campaign is underway.

“If the Greens do earn enough votes and preferences to gain the balance of power in the Senate in Canberra, they will need to make sure they act in the national interest,” she said.

“The mining industry has a constructive working relationship with politicians and government departments here in NSW, which has helped to deliver benefits for the community.

“The NSW Minerals Council is working with the New South Wales government to address concerns about the impact of mining through the newly established process to develop a strategic plan for coal mining in NSW. This new approach recognises the contribution of coal mining in NSW as well as the challenges ahead.

“There are more than 570 pieces of legislation, regulation and guidelines applied to mining making it the most regulated industry in NSW, but it is clear that some parts of the community remain concerned about the impact of our operations. Coal production is expected to increase to meet growing demand for exports over the coming years, which is why we all need a coordinated approach to assessments, development and regulation.

“This renewed focus should provide the community and the industry with more certainty about the Government’s approach to issues such as the environment, development and the need for strategic land use planning in regional NSW.”