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Thursday, 1 March 2018
Page: 2520


Mr CONROY (Shortland) (15:46): I'm proud to make a contribution on this MPI, which really goes to the future of coal in this country—in essence, that is the MPI today. I won't be lectured about support for coalminers by the coalition government—a coalition government that is happy to use them for props, but doesn't give a fig about coalminers. They are happy to use them for props—high-vis vests, hard hats—but they don't give a fig. Most of the people interjecting in this debate, during question time and everywhere else, have never met a coalminer. They are cosy up on the northern beaches of Sydney, people like the member for Pittwater or whatever it's called nowadays. They're talking about coalminers, but they've never met one in their life. They don't care about coalminers.

If they did care, I would see them at the northern coalfields coalminers' memorial service, a memorial service held every year in Cessnock, that commemorates the 1,800 coalminers who have died in the northern district coalmines, aged from as young as 11 to as old as 76. It's a tragic story, a story of the 200 years of coalmining in my region. I don't see a single coalition MP at the service, despite the fact that there are several coalition MPs who have seats in the Hunter Region with coalmines, including the member for New England. There are coalmines in his region, but I never see him at the memorial service. They don't care about coalminers; they just use them for cheap props.

I didn't hear them speak out when Senator Roberts, their partner in One Nation, talked about black lung as something to be managed rather than eradicated. I didn't hear them saying that that was an awful statement and we should never accept black lung in the coal industry. I didn't see them standing up for the 115 workers at Hunter Valley No. 1 mine when Rio Tinto sacked them for having the temerity to ask for an enterprise bargaining agreement. In the end, all we get from those on the other side are weasel words and using coalminers for props down here in Canberra. When it's about real action for coalminers, they go missing.

Turning to the $1 billion subsidy proposed through the Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility, if this $1 billion loan goes ahead it threatens 18,000 coalmining jobs in my region. Don't just take my word for it. Jonathan van Rooyen, an executive at the Port of Newcastle, the biggest export port for coal in the entire world, says that if this loan went ahead it would 'distort competition and create sovereign risk' by supporting Adani in a 'shrinking world coal market'.

The government are quick to talk about the benefits to North Queensland of this taxpayer support, but have been silent about the costs it would impose on other coal-producing regions. There's no avoiding the simple mathematics that if Turnbull, the Prime Minister, succeeds in pushing between 25 million and 60 million tonnes of subsidised coal into a flat—in fact, a declining—world market, the volume of coal mined and exported from the Hunter and Illawarra will decline.

So I will say to you, Mr Deputy Speaker, and through you to the people of Australia that we care about coalminers. I care about coalminers. I care about the 18,000 coalminers in my region who are threatened if this mob succeed in getting this $1 billion subsidy for the Carmichael mine. The truth is that thermal coal market is declining globally. It peaked in 2013 or 2014. The seaborne thermal coal trade has declined every year since then. Coal imports to China have declined. Coal imports to India have declined every year. It's a matter of economic logic that, if you increase supply into a market where demand is falling, you will affect prices. You will drive down prices. You will threaten existing coalmines and existing coalmining jobs, including the 18,000 in my electorate. So I say to those opposite: if you care about coalmining jobs, come up and visit some of the coalmines in my region and look the 18,000 coalminers in the face and say, 'We're prepared to do you out of a job because we want this $1 billion loan.'

Government members interjecting

Mr CONROY: Even better—I welcome you—come up on the second Sunday in September to the miners memorial to see the bronze wall commemorating the 1,800 coalminers who have died in my community to ship out coal and produce wealth for this country. But you won't, because you don't have the ticker. You don't care about coalminers other than to use them as cheap political props for your tricks. Shame on you! Shame on the entire coalition for their lack of support for real coalminers!