Stop the opposition's fear campaign: our coal industry has a strong future (26/06/2012)

steelworkers.jpgMr STEPHEN JONES (Throsby) (22:25): I commend all members of the House who were able to keep a straight face during the contribution of the member for Hughes just now—particularly during the part of his dissertation where he condemned those on this side of the House for 'peddling fear and doom', when what we have seen from those opposite, and particularly from the member for Hughes, is a 12-month campaign of nothing but fear and doom. I will have a few things to say about that during this adjournment address, because on this side of the House jobs and employment are our priority.

In the Illawarra and Southern Highlands region, there are still many locals who are locked out of the benefits of the resources boom. Since speaking recently in parliament about these issues, I have been contacted by many constituents who are desperate to find employment in one of these resource projects. Against this backdrop it was very welcome news for the people of the Illawarra when last Friday BHP Billiton approved an $833 million investment in coalmining ventures in the Illawarra. This represents the largest capital investment by BHP Billiton ever in its Illawarra coal subsidiary. The new mine will support the ongoing employment of over 500 workers, currently employed at its West Cliff mine, and will generate 300 new jobs in the construction phase.

It is welcome news that $833 million has been committed to Illawarra coal—and just days before the introduction of the carbon price. I hope this welcome news will put a stop to a planned visit by the Leader of the Opposition—or at least the fear campaign he has been attempting to spread around my electorate and many others, predicting gloom, doom and the death of the coal industry. The Leader of the Opposition should be held to account for talking down Australian jobs and the coal industry in regions like mine. I hope he will be held to account for the baseless fear and insecurity that he has generated—not, I should say, amongst those who actually work in the coal industry. They look at the Leader of the Opposition and they laugh, because they can see expansion in their own pits and expansion in the industry, and they see through his baseless fear campaign.

Last year, the Leader of the Opposition visited Peabody Energy in the Illawarra and predicted its demise as well. Unfortunately for him, a day or so later Peabody Energy announced a $5 billion takeover bid for Australian miner Macarthur Coal. So much for a lack of faith in the industry. Coal has a strong future in our country and in my region. There has been an upward revision from $96 billion to $107 billion in the investment pipeline for coal in this country.

However, there are some real threats to the future of coal and coal jobs in my electorate. I would like to take this opportunity to point out some of the hypocrisy of the Liberal Party when it comes to the coal industry. Just a week ago in the Southern Highlands, Liberal Party councillors on the Wingecarribee Shire Council voted with their Greens colleagues to attempt to bring a stop the expansion of the Medway Colliery from 220,000 tonnes per annum to 460,000 tonnes per annum. If the Liberal Party are successful in this bid, it will have a devastating effect not only on Boral's mine but also on the cement works. The cement works and colliery have operated in tandem for over 90 years and they are dependent upon each other. They are an important source of employment and wealth generation for the region and they employ more than 180 workers and contribute more to the community through the procurement and the multiplier effects of wages earned and spent locally. The town most affected by the application is now known as New Berrima. It was built as a dormitory suburb for the mine in the first place, and for families at the nearby cement works. So while cement is a critical product in our national and regional development, it operates in a very competitive international environment.

Threats to the Boral cement works through the recent decision, supported by Liberal Party councillors on the Wingecarribee Shire Council, should be resisted. If those opposite wanted to do something for the future of the coal industry and coalmining jobs in my region, the member for Hughes would pick up the phone to his Liberal colleagues in the adjoining electorate and tell them to do something about the position that has been adopted by their councillors in relation to this mine, because good hardworking families in my electorate depend on this cement works and the adjacent mine for their livelihoods, and the decision by the Wingecarribee Shire Council puts those jobs at risk.

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