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Wednesday, 13 September 2017
Page: 7145


Senator WILLIAMS (New South WalesNationals Whip in the Senate) (14:26): My question is to the Minister for Indigenous Affairs representing the Minister for Resources and Northern Australia, Senator Scullion. Can the minister update the Senate on any recent developments in the resources sector?

Senator SCULLION (Northern TerritoryMinister for Indigenous Affairs and Leader of The Nationals in the Senate) (14:26): I thank Senator Williams for the question. Senator Williams knows very well that the growth of the economy and the support of our resources sector are most important roles for government. So, Senator Williams, I hope you'll be pleased with the reports I've provided this week. Two hundred and thirty thousand jobs were supplied to breadwinners who are supported in the resources industry.

However, today I can update the Senate that there are reports that the Mount Piper power station may be forced to shut down as a result of a recent court decision about the operation of Springvale mine, which provides the coal to that power station. In August 2017, the New South Wales Court of Appeal found that the New South Wales government's 2015 approval process should not have been granted due to the wrong application of the test on water quality. It has actually nothing to do with water quality; it is a technical matter. So that's now being dealt with by the New South Wales Department of Planning and Environment. Whilst this is a matter for the New South Wales government, I can tell you that the Commonwealth is very keen to see this issue resolved as soon as possible because it has the potential to have a significant impact on energy security and, of course, the social and economic wellbeing of Lithgow. The Springvale mine and Mount Piper provide for 600 jobs in the region, but, very importantly, it also provides for 15 per cent of the energy of New South Wales. To lose that would be a complete disaster.

The court challenge is as a result of another green activist group called 4nature. Time and time again, inner-city activists, who've never been to the regions and have probably never met any of the 600 people whose jobs are going to fall to the ground, campaign against the mines in the region. The rest of the world is building coal-fired power stations—China, India and Japan—with high efficiency and low emissions, which is the way of the future. We are committed on this side to do everything we can to support the resources sector. (Time expired)

The PRESIDENT: Senator Williams, a supplementary question.

Senator WILLIAMS (New South WalesNationals Whip in the Senate) (14:28): I thank the minister. Is the minister aware of any threats to jobs in the resources industry?

Senator SCULLION (Northern TerritoryMinister for Indigenous Affairs and Leader of The Nationals in the Senate) (14:28): Unfortunately, we continue to see court challenges from green activists which are now, as we said, putting 600 jobs at risk in Lithgow and 220 jobs in your own state of New South Wales, Senator Williams. At least some people in this place are up-front about where they stand. The Greens, as we know, are on the record as opposing coal. Everyone knows where they stand and they've been clear about that. I have no problem with that at all. I may disagree with it, but I admire the fact that they're absolutely up-front about it. Others are unfortunately not so up-front. You just need to see who's backed this sort activism. I'm not talking about a bloke having a chat with his two mates in a pub either. I'm actually talking about the Leader of the Opposition, Mr Shorten, who has provided $100,000 out of Australian Workers Union money to GetUp!—the very group that is trying to put these workers out of a job.

The PRESIDENT: Senator Williams, a final supplementary question.

Senator WILLIAMS (New South WalesNationals Whip in the Senate) (14:29): That is unbelievable. Is the minister aware of any alternative approaches to resources policy and can the minister explain how these have impacted upon Australia's energy security?

Senator SCULLION (Northern TerritoryMinister for Indigenous Affairs and Leader of The Nationals in the Senate) (14:30): Unfortunately, there are some alternative approaches to these matters. Our government backed the resources industry. We understand the importance of energy security and jobs. Unfortunately, it's those opposite who want to see the destruction of the coal industry. If those opposite were in government, the Leader of the Opposition would cause blackouts across this nation. The member for Port Adelaide would see us in constant brownouts, and there would be no coal under the watch of the member for Hunter. Under Labor, we would not be talking about a clean energy future but a zero energy future. They applauded when Hazelwood shut—isn't this a great challenge for government and for Australia? They are dictated to by GetUp! They have forgotten the blue-collar workers and they have forgotten coal.

You just need to look at the impact on families, power and business in the state of South Australia to see when power prices reach record highs. That's the sort of place we don't want to see Australia go— (Time expired)