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Thursday, 31 August 1989
Page: 689

Senator DEVEREUX —My question is directed to the Minister for Resources. Are reports correct that Thai and Australian business leaders will meet during the visit of the Prime Minister of Thailand to Australia to discuss possible Australian involvement in power generation in Thailand? If these reports are correct, can the Minister tell the Senate what progress has been made on the idea? Did he have the opportunity to assess the prospects during his recent visit to Thailand? Has he received progress reports on the proposal from the Australian consortium which is reported to be interested in it?

Senator COOK —It is opportune that Senator Devereux should ask this question today, as we have just attended a luncheon for the Prime Minister of Thailand, General Chatichai. It is true that the press reports-the report I saw was in the Melbourne Age today-an initiative by an Australian consortium in Thailand for a billion dollar value project for the design, building and operation of a black coal fired power station on the eastern seaboard of Thailand. At the present stage the consortium, comprising the Electricity Commission of New South Wales, Leighton Holdings Ltd, Port Waratah Coal Services, CRA Ltd, and the Joint Coal Board, has put an initial proposal in outline to the Thai authorities and will at the end of this year make a full presentation of all the technical details and data to the Prime Minister of Thailand in the expectation that shortly after that there will be a decision by the Thai Government whether to go ahead with the project.

At this stage I would have to say as an observer of these proceedings that the prospects that a project of some sort will proceed in Thailand are relatively good. As I have said, the total value of the project would be about $1 billion. But the expectation of the consortium is that, in terms of material supplied to the power station, about 30 per cent would be Australian content. The feedstock to fuel the power station is most likely to be Australian, high calorific content, low sulphur, low ash, low moisture black coal. It would constitute at a minimum about 60 per cent of the feedstock to fuel the power station.

The Thai authorities are concerned about environmental issues concerning the location of the power station. One of the reasons why I believe that this power project and initiative by the Australian consortium has real legs is that the actual level of atmospheric pollution is much lower than is the case with lignite fuel power stations on brown coal reserves in Thailand. Thus, while any power generation makes a contribution to CO2 emissions, given the very high energy content per unit of input, this is environmentally one of the best ways of power generation.

This project is a good example of Australian initiative in a growing market. The economy of Thailand is expanding by about 9 per cent per annum. The fact that Australia can compete internationally against the best projects proposed by other countries, the fact that Australia is a country recognised world-wide as the leader in coal-based power generation and the fact that Australia now has a real opportunity to demonstrate in situ in Thailand our ability to deliver highly technical, highly complex and very worthwhile industrial development indicates to other Australian industry that the markets that exist in South East Asia for Australian resource development, Australian power generation and Australian transport and communications are very real. If this project goes ahead it will demonstrate our capacity and open up market opportunities for other Australian entrepreneurs.