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Speech to Coal Preparation Conference.

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Speech The Hon Bob Baldwin, MP

13 March 2007

Speech to Coal Preparation Conference CHECK AGAINST DELIVERY

Good morning.

Thanks for inviting me here address you today.

I am very honoured to be here today to help open your Conference.

Looking at the Conference program I note that it is very technically focused and is primarily directed at the experts who work behind the scenes and in the field.


I am obviously talking to the "brains" behind the Australian coal industry.

Let me therefore start my presentation today by congratulating you.

Your contribution is fundamental to the success of the Australian coal industry today.

All of this adds up to the coal industry being one of critical importance to Australia and the Australian economy.

Let's talk some figures - they are impressive.

Just 10 years ago, coal exports were worth $8 billion dollars - a substantial amount in anyone's language.

Today that figure has risen to more than $24 billion or in the order of 14 per cent of all our total merchandise exports

From $8 billion to $24 billion. That's more than a 300 per cent increase.

Your industry employs around 30,000 people directly.

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Importance to Australia

They and their families as well as local businesses, particularly in regional Australia, rely on the coal industry for their economic livelihood.

The Australian Coal Association estimates that all up around 130,000 Australians are directly and indirectly dependent on the coal industry.

Add to this the investment in infrastructure and the contribution to the skills base and the productive capacity of this country, the provision of a secure, reliable and competitively priced electricity supply and you can appreciate the contribution of the industry to our national wellbeing.

You people have enabled that to happen. And you're enabling it to continue.

The work you do has helped develop the industry into one that has mastered low-cost production techniques, while at the same time producing high-quality clean coal.

This has not been enough. You've gone further and developed - and continue to develop - processes and equipment that have improved the efficiency of coal handling as well as coal preparation.

Your industry has made some very significant technological advances over the past few years.

Advancements that have put you in the driving seat of the world's high quality, clean coal industry.

But the advance you have made comes at a price, and that price is being met through an investment in R&D.

The Aust coal industry is in the unique position of having the foresight to invest in an industry research fund - the Australian Coal Association Research Program.


The Australian Government actively supports ACARP and has a Memorandum of Understanding with the Australian Coal Association which underpins the operation of the program.

ACARP has supported generic coal industry research into improving the economic, environmental and safety performance of the coal industry that has supported generic coal industry research.

A major reason the Australian coal industry being so vibrant and dynamic today is because of the contribution and legacy provided by ACARP.

The ACARP program operates under an Agreement between the Minister for Industry Tourism and Resources and the Australian Coal Association. Under this Agreement, which was extended by Minister Macfarlane last year for a further five years all Australian producers of black coal are levied 5 cents per tonne of saleable coal produced.

So what this boils down is that if we produce 306 million tonnes of coal, as we did last financial year, the pool of research funds for the year is around $15 million

And it's really an ingenious scheme because the more we produce the higher the amount that is

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put into the research fund.


ACARP has provided over $62 million to fund coal research and development projects in the last five years.

This includes $7.5 million provided to coal preparation research projects since 1 July 2002.

If you ask me, ACARP funding is a model that could be applied to other industries.

But this scheme would not work without the Government's backing.

And what great work ACARP has achieved. The rise in production and Australia's pre-eminence in coal technology is due in no small part to ACARP's endeavours.

And the fact that we are recognised as world leader in clean coal production is again a tribute to the program.

You get a big tick in my book. Your work has added to our international competitiveness in the coal industry and the value the industry contributes to exports.

A major aspect of your work in coal preparation development and techniques has been reflected in the increased environmental performance.

I don't pretend to know the technical details of what you have done.

But I do know the results. I see it every day in my electorate in the Hunter area of NSW which, of course, is a coal-producing region.

I see it, for example, in the intense and dedicated work you are doing to reduce water usage in coal preparation.

And I note you have been doing this for some time, long before the results of the drought brought home to the wider population the need to treat water as a valuable and scarce resource.

The industry is developing a more environmentally friendly base and from this base it will be able to lift capacity in a sustainable and responsible manner.

It's people like you who are enabling this to happen.

Future safe

But I know some of you are a little nervous about what the future holds.

There are calls for the shut down of the coal industry to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Well let me tell you what the Australian Government's answer is to such calls. NO!…NO!….NO!

We are not going to shut down the down industry and any such idea is a nonsense.

The world needs high-quality, clean coal.

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And it needs it in growing volumes - volumes which Australia is well-placed to provide because of the mechanical and technical innovations you have developed and instituted.

We must continue to improve the quality of our coal and to optimise its performance.

We must continue our work into the development of low-emission technologies.

Clean coal is our future and we are building this philosophy into our planning.


The Prime Minister, Mr Howard, announced that Australia and China have established a clean-coal technology working group to balance China's need for energy resources with concern about the global environment.

The aims of the group include sharing knowledge about clean coal, identifying areas where the use of clean-coal technologies can be improved and identifying joint clean-coal technology projects.

In fact, that working group's first meeting is in a few days, (March 16).

The Australian Government is not just talking the talk…we're getting results.

The Australian Government's commitment to the coal industry is clear.

The industry is vibrant, dynamic and constantly evolving.

It is people with your skills, your vision and your determination who have got it to where it is today. And you will take it into the future.

You get a big 10 out of 10 from me.

Thank you.

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Page 4 of 4 Ministers - Industry, Tourism and Resources - Speech to Coal Preparation Conference