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Wednesday, 17 August 2011
Page: 8348

Coal Seam Gas

Mr STEPHEN JONES (Throsby) (14:38): My question is to the Minister for Resources and Energy and Minister for Tourism. Will the minister update the House on the significance of Australia's coal seam gas industry? Why is investment certainty important for our economy, and what are the risks to that investment?

Mr MARTIN FERGUSON (BatmanMinister for Resources and Energy and Minister for Tourism) (14:38): I thank the member for Throsby for the question. In thinking about the coal seam methane industry, let us first be clear: this is not a new industry to Australia. On the east coast of Australia the coal seam methane industry, from a domestic point of view, currently represents 30 per cent of our east coast gas supply. In Brisbane alone it represents 90 per cent of the gas currently used. What is new to Australia is a world first—potentially the first ever world export contracts from the LNG industry. That represents $45 billion in new investment for Australia. Yes, there is some foreign investment, but, importantly, there are two leading Australian companies in partnership with international investors, Santos and Origin—ordinary Australians investing in their future, side by side with international investment.

But, importantly, that $45 billion in new investment also represents, for the state of Queensland out of those three projects to date, 15,000 new jobs not only in Gladstone but in a number of regional communities that are struggling to rebuild themselves because of the challenges that have confronted the agricultural sector in recent decades. When I went to Chinchilla last August to open a new local apprenticeship training centre, the young apprentices I met and their parents were absolutely delighted with our investment in support of the industry and new apprenticeship opportunities. The parents spoke about the opportunities now to train locally, to be employed locally and to sustain those local communities. I should also remind the House that, in terms of royalties, they will principally go to the state of Queensland, because they are onshore resource developments. That means a greater opportunity for Queensland to invest in those regional communities in funding health, education and infrastructure, just to name a few of the basic requirements that those local communities expect.

What really disappoints the Australian community is the endeavour by the opposition time and time again to talk down the Australian economy. That is what we have seen: rank political opportunism over the last couple of days by the Leader of the Opposition. Members of the gallery should listen: if you walk out of question time today, run into Tony Abbott and say something to him, he will agree with you. He will then walk to the next group of people, they will say the exact opposite and he will agree with them. That is what we have on the other side of the House. This is very serious. We are very fortunate as a nation at the moment, with $45 billion in new investment in the coal seam methane industry and an investment pipeline of $440 billion. We also had the Leader of the Opposition last Friday not only challenging the constitutional capacity of the state and territory governments to regulate this very important industry but also saying to foreign investors, 'You are not welcome in Australia.' It is about time he understood that the history of Australia is that we are a trading nation built on the back of foreign investment. Companies such as Shell, Chevron and BP are investing in Australia and creating real jobs. So it is about time that the Leader of the Opposition fronted up to his responsibilities and stopped going around Australia talking about his so-called policy mix, which is nothing but populism masquerading as policy. He is a rank political opportunist and nothing but an economic vandal who has clearly shown yet again that he has no understanding of the functions of the Australian economy.