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Monday, 19 March 2018
Page: 1373

Senator BARTLETT (Queensland) (13:01): I move Greens amendment (1) on sheet 8384, as circulated in my name:

(1) Schedule 1, item 2, page 7 (line 3), after "*petroleum", insert ", thermal coal".

It is a very simple amendment, on which I elaborated to some extent in my second reading contribution, so I won't go over all of that again. As the bill currently stands—and as we all know this bill will become law fairly soon, as it is going to pass—it exempts the incentive from being made available to exploration or prospecting for petroleum or oil shale. All this amendment seeks to do is to ensure that thermal coal is also exempt from being eligible for this exploration incentive.

The time for coal in Australia is over, and we need to be recognising that. We need to be recognising that we do not need to be putting any more public resources into continuing to explore for new thermal coal deposits. We need to be transitioning away from coal. We need to be ensuring that all of our communities that in the past have had some economic benefit from these industries are able to transition effectively, that the workers are able to transition effectively and the communities are able to be provided with other economic opportunities, many of which are already there and many of which need support and investment to develop more effectively and more sustainably. There is a lot of debate of course in my own state of Queensland—an argument regarding the future of the thermal coal industry. The Greens' position on that is unequivocally clear, and we think it's about time the parliament's position on that was made unequivocally clear.

There are alternative economic futures for regional communities. They are ones that are better both in terms of employment opportunities and in terms of more solid and stable communities. So much of the profit from coal in the past has gone to overseas corporations, many of which have managed to avoid tax. The harm done by the boom-bust component of the last mining boom to communities in regional Queensland is quite significant. I know my Greens colleagues could talk about other states as well. But it caused quite significant social and community damage.

We've got $100 million-plus available here. That money could be invested far more effectively in economic opportunities that are far more stable and suited for communities. It also should not be being spent in any way to encourage further exploration of thermal coal. We should not be opening up existing coal deposits that have already been identified. We still do not have a clear position from the Queensland government about whether they do or do not support the Adani coalmine. We do not have a clear position from the Queensland government on whether they do or do not support opening up the whole new massive coal deposits in the Galilee Basin. As I said in my second reading contribution, any further expansion of that will predominantly have a harmful effect on existing coal jobs. We need to be supporting people who are in existing employment and providing assistance for a smooth transition for those workers, many of whom are already being inappropriately exploited by overseas mining corporations, due in part to the inadequacies under our existing so-called Fair Work Act and the inadequacies of our existing industrial relations laws. The last thing we should be doing is providing more taxpayer money to subsidise exploration to identify more thermal coal deposits. That's why the Greens are moving this amendment. It's a pretty straightforward one and I certainly would encourage other parties to support it.