I am proud to represent the Hunter region, a region built on coal. Coal was discovered in Newcastle in 1797 and the first export coal in 1799, somewhat ironically given the Adani debate, was shipped to India. Each year, along with most local elected representatives I attend the Miners Memorial Day, which commemorates the 1,800 workers who have lost their lives in the northern minefields. Ages on that memorial range from a tragic 11 to 76. My neighbours are coalminers. My kids go to child care alongside the children of coalminers. My local footy club is run by coalminers and sponsored by coal companies. It is in this context that I state categorically and without any exaggeration that the Coalition Government has declared war on the 13,000 Hunter coalminers and the communities that depend upon those jobs.
The Government has absolutely zero concern for the miners of my region. Nothing highlights this attitude more than the proposed $1 billion subsidy to the Adani Carmichael mine. The Adani mine is a significant threat to Hunter coalminers.
Most industry experts agree that this project is a direct threat to existing coalminers.
Why is this?
It is because official figures from the International Energy Agency, which are always optimistic in terms of the future of coal, concede that coal consumption globally peaked in 2013 and has declined every year since. Chinese coal consumption has fallen by 3.4 per cent; Indian coal imports declined in 2015 and 2016; and seaborne thermal coal peaked in 2013 and has fallen by nearly 6 per cent again.
The truth is that, as the international coal market is declining, any increase in supply will, by definition, reduce the international coal price and lower the volume of coal exported from Australia's other coal ports. In essence, the Coalition Government is planning on providing a $1 billion subsidy to lower the price of coal and reduce coal exports from Newcastle. This threatens the jobs of 18,000 Hunter coalminers—and for what? Adani have stated in court that their project will create only 1,400 jobs.
I acknowledge that these jobs are important to Central Queensland, but why should the federal government threaten the livelihood of Hunter coalminers to secure these jobs?
Beyond falsifying the state of the international coal market, the minister for resources argues that Adani should be subsidised because the Hunter and Bowen coalmines benefited from previous Commonwealth infrastructure investment. This ignores two important facts. Firstly, this investment was in the context of growing international demand for coal. This infrastructure investment did not threaten the existing coalmines. Secondly, it ignores the centuries of wealth these coal regions generated before that investment occurred. The 1961 Commonwealth investment in Newcastle port was made after the region had mined coal for 162 years. It was not a downpayment on future economic activity but a partial repayment of all the wealth generated by the Hunter coalminers over many generations.
It is for that reason that I remain opposed to the Adani Carmichael mine.