Strip Greens of pointless funding

Bookmark and Share Energy | Daniel Wild
Courier Mail 5th October, 2016

After years of litigation, environmental activists have been dealt a terrible intellectual and legal blow by the Queensland Supreme Court: Australian coal mines don't hurt the environment.

Last Wednesday the Queensland Supreme Court rejected a frivolous legal challenge mounted by green group Coast and Country concerning a coal mine near Alpha, in central Queensland. The green group argued that the burning of coal in export destinations such as India would create carbon emissions, and these emissions needed to be considered by the State Government when granting approvals.

But, in its rejection, the Court noted that stopping the mine would not have made any difference to global carbon emissions: "Power stations would burn the same amount of thermal coal and produce the same amount of greenhouse gases whether or not the proposed Alpha Mine proceeded."

This is a significant judgment. It says blocking coal mines in Australia will not benefit the global environment because we are in a globally competitive market place. If a power station in India does not obtain coal from Australia, it will buy coal from somewhere else.

It also lays bare the motivation behind these legal challenges. For years green groups have fished for a ruling that says Australian mines are responsible for carbon emission overseas. This would establish a legal precedent that would destroy the coal industry, which is precisely their aim.

But, just as competition means stopping coal in Australia won't help the environment, it also means business investment is highly sensitive to domestic cost pressures. Legal challenges that cause delays are a key source of concern for big miners.

As The Sunday Mail (Oct 2) found, more than $34 billion of projects are being targeted by ecoactivists, which could jeopardise employment for 27,000 Queenslanders.

This comes at a time when the same number of people are in full-time work now as they were in 2011 and state debt is forecast to reach $75 billion in 2016-17.

Green groups do not have the solutions. After the court's decision, Coast and Country's Derec Davies said "it's up to the Queensland Government and the labour force that are traditionally working in mines to look to transition to some sustainable future jobs". Where are these "sustainable future jobs"? Davies does not say. Meanwhile thousands of actual jobs are being squandered. The Alpha mine is expected to create 5650 jobs.

The State and Federal governments should adopt a pro-Australian energy and jobs policy. This will involve stripping green legal groups of funding; abolishing or amending laws that give green groups special legal privileges; cutting project approval red tape; and getting the Federal Government out of approvals altogether. Now that it is clear stopping coal in Australia will not help the environment, why allow green groups to continue with the pretence that it does?