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Monday, 26 February 2018
Page: 1931


Mr CONROY (Shortland) (11:36): I rise proudly to speak on this motion because, yet again, we have seen myths being peddled by the member for Dawson. Let's look at some facts. Fact 1: global coal consumption peaked in 2013. Fact 2: Chinese coal consumption has fallen by nearly four per cent. Fact 3: imports of coal to India have fallen considerably. Fact 4: global seaborne thermal coal volume, which is the main Australian thermal coal market because we ship our coal via the seaborne trade routes, peaked in 2013 and has fallen every year. The global thermal coal trade market has declined every year since 2013. The market for thermal coal globally is declining. That is not contested by any serious economic commentator in this area.

So we've got a declining coal market, and the proposal from the member for Dawson and the rest of the coalition is a billion-dollar subsidy to open up new supply that threatens existing coalmines in my region. I have 18,000 coalminers in the Hunter region. If you subsidise competition into a declining market, by definition, you are imposing competition that will drive down coal prices and threaten the livelihood of those 18,000 coalminers.

I'm proud to stand up to support those coalminers. My neighbour's a coalminer. My kids go to child care with coalminers' kids. My local footy team's stadium is packed to the rafters with coalminers watching it play and is sponsored by a coal company. I'm proud that we've been mining coal in the Hunter region since 1799. Ironically, the first coal dug up was exported to India. I'm proud of all those facts, and I'll stand up for coalminers in this place and say: I don't support a billion-dollar subsidy that threatens their jobs, because this is all this is about.

I won't be lectured to about support for coalminers by these people. I don't see them at the Northern Districts miners memorial that occurs every year in Cessnock, which commemorates the 1,800 workers who have died in coalmines in the Hunter region—miners as young as 11 and as old as 76 who have died in those coalmines. I've never seen a single coalition representative at that memorial, even though the electorate of the member for New England has many Hunter coalmines in it. So this is rank hypocrisy by the coalition.

That doesn't amaze me. The coalition profess a love of Queensland, but this is the party of the Brisbane line. This is the party that supported not defending anywhere north of Brisbane during World War II. This is the party that's proud of the corrupt Jo Bjelke-Petersen regime that destroyed Queensland for 20 years. So this is all weasel words from a government that has nothing of substance to say on this region. Oh, come on!

The DEPUTY SPEAKER ( Ms Bird ): The member seeks a point of order?

Mr Christensen: Does he support the mine or not?

The DEPUTY SPEAKER: I thank the member; that's not a point of order.

Mr CONROY: It shows I've hit a sensitive note there—he's been forced to take spurious points of order.

Let's go back to the facts. A billion-dollar subsidy is a bad idea. I do not support it at all because it threatens hundreds of coalmining jobs. I support our existing coalmines. They've got a long life. Sixty-five per cent of Australia's trade in coal is in metallurgical coal, coking coal, and that's got a strong future, but thermal coal trade is declining globally. We need to be cognisant of the fact and make sure we've got plans in place for a transition that should take decades. The most important thing we owe to coalminers and the communities that depend on them is honesty—honesty to say that change is coming, honesty to say, 'We will work with you over the decades when the change is occurring to transition your industry and the communities that depend on you.' The easiest thing for a politician to do in this place is to lie to people—to put their head in the sand and say, 'Change isn't coming.' Well, change is coming. As I said, global coal consumption peaked in 2013 and it is declining every year, and we need to be honest with our communities.

I'll end where I began by saying that I'm proud to represent a coal community, I'm proudly embedded in that community and I recognise the world that coal delivered to my region for 200 years. But we need to face up to the facts, stop peddling lies, stop giving people false hope and stop trying to subsidise a Queensland project that imperils the 18,000 coalminers in my community.