The mining industry has rejected the Greens latest plan to deal with the “terminal decline” of the sector.
Greens leader Dr Richard Di Natale released the plan on Tuesday, in response to a report from the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis.
“The report concludes what many market analysts have been saying for some time – that the rapid decline in Australia’s coal exports in recent years is not a cyclical blip but a structural and terminal decline that will not recover. We need a plan for workers and their families, for our economy and our environment,” Dr Di Natale said.
“China, Japan and India are all diversifying their energy sectors away from imported coal, with coal imports from China down 31 per cent already this year. This scenario creates two major public policy challenges: how to transition thousands of jobs in the sector, and how to pay for billions in clean up and rehabilitation costs for dozens of disused coal mines.”
On the eve of his inaugural National Press Club address Senator Di Natale, along with resources spokesperson Senator Larissa Waters, has released a proposal to protect thousands of coal workers from being left stranded by mine closures, and to collect billions of dollars needed to pay for mine rehabilitation, so that the cost burden doesn’t fall on cash-strapped state governments and taxpayers.
The policy would create a federal fund to hold coalmine rehabilitation funds, after an audit to find out what shortfall there was between funds already held and actual costs. It also includes a plan, minus the detail, to help mine workers re-train to hold jobs rehabilitating the mines they used to work at.
Australian Greens Deputy Leader Senator Larissa Waters said that mining companies have a long history of walking away without rehabilitating the land and leaving their workers in the lurch.
“As coal companies go bankrupt or leave Australia it’s coal workers who are hit hardest, followed by state governments who are regularly left to foot the bill for cleaning up the mine. The Greens’ plan would protect workers, state governments and the environment,” Senator Waters said.
Minerals Council of Australia executive director of coal, Greg Evans, said the policy is “economically reckless”.
He pointed out there are already “strict requirements” for mine rehabilitation, with coal producers not receiving their security deposits back until all environmental conditions are met.
“It illustrates once again why the Greens occupy the radical fringe of politics and offer no sensible policy prescriptions for mainstream Australia. The Greens need to be held to account and explain the impact of this new tax on domestic electricity prices and the harmful economy wide impact,” Mr Evans said.
“Taxpayers are not exposed – in fact in the last financial year coal royalties contributed $3 billion in the eastern states of Queensland, New South Wales and Victoria, and are expected to contribute $15 billion over the next four years.
“Contrary to the wishes of industry detractors, coal demand remains strong in our key export markets with the Department of Industry expecting Australia to be the world largest coal exporter in 2017.
“The Greens party’s assertion that coal exports are in decline is plain wrong.”