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Coal Mines in Tasmania
Ms O'CONNOR question to PREMIER, Mr HODGMAN
We have an open letter calling on your Government to support a ban on new coal mines in Tasmania. It is signed by 34 Tasmanian organisations, including Doctors for the Environment, Australian Youth Climate Coalition, the Tasmanian Aboriginal Centre, Renewable Energy Alliance and Agri-Energy Alliance, along with 35 academics and a whole range of individuals, including former Labor Premier David Bartlett, former environment minister, Paula Wriedt and former Speaker of the House, Andrew Lohrey.
These distinguished and passionate Tasmanians have joined the call for you to act for a safe climate and protect Tasmania's brand. On breakfast radio this morning even Senator Jacqui Lambie called the call.
Which side of history do you want to be on? Do you agree there is no place for new coal mines in Tasmania?
Madam Speaker, I thank the member for her question. I have received a copy of that letter. My Government is determined to ensure that this matter is appropriately handled through the processes that I outlined yesterday, but with a very clear statement that we will not do anything as a government that negatively impacts on our brand or on our other key objectives, such as to ensure that we meet the strong targets of growth in our agriculture sector that we have set ourselves and that we are on track to achieve under our policy platform.
As I said yesterday, the coal exploration licences in question with Midland Energy go back some way. There has already been a lot of water under the bridge. As I said yesterday, there will certainly be a damn sight more to come with respect to this matter. In fact, they were granted no less by a Labor government back in 2008. They were allowed to continue to exist throughout the period of a Labor-Greens government. I do not recall hearing that the Labor-Greens government wanted to shut down these leases and exploration licences.
They are exploration licences - not licences to operate. Applications have been made by the company to extend the term of these licences, but the Government has not granted nor been asked to grant any mining leases on any area of these licences. No grant payment has been made to the company. The company has not completed a program for drilling or reported to MRT, as is expected. It has not yet happened.
As I said yesterday there is a process under which these matters should progress. We, as a government, follow good process. That includes complying with our obligations under the law, most notably in this case, the Mineral Resources Development Act, as the community and the business community would expect us to do. That includes appropriately receiving any advice from the department on licences granted, including those granted under Labor-Greens governments.
I have also been very clear in saying we will do nothing to compromise or conflict with the state's best interest. That is also required of us under the law. Our policy position is very clear that we do not support mining on productive agricultural land; certainly, where it is not in the best interests and it conflicts with our clear and stated policy to grow the value of agriculture.
In that context I consider it an improbable proposition and very unlikely that the licences will be granted, renewed or that any mining leases in the area be approved, but appropriate processes under law must also be followed. We will strongly continue to support our mining and minerals industry. The coal mining industry has a long history in our state. It supports jobs in existing operations, particularly in the Fingal Valley and at Railton.
Ms O'Connor - Yes, but they've got no future.
Mr HODGMAN - I do not recall the Greens, when they were in government, ever wanting to ban them or shut them down.
Ms O'Connor - No new coal mines.
Madam SPEAKER - Order.
Mr HODGMAN - I recall the time when the Greens were in fact championing coal fire. We have been able to dig out an old report where coal-fired power was the 'best option' -
Tasmania's environmental lobbying has expressed its preference for coal-fired thermal power generation over the construction of more hydro power dams.
The Director of the Tasmanian Wilderness Society Dr Bob Brown said yesterday that if there was to be a new power station then coal-fired thermal was the best centralised option we have.
As is often the case, the Greens pick and choose as it suits them. If we followed their Leader where would we be on the renewable energy development that is occurring under this Government, which will have us as 100 per cent renewable by 2022?
We will continue to ensure that our state's best interests are front in mind; that we comply with process and the law as is required of us. That gives confidence to the community and should do so. Notwithstanding the hysteria that the Greens will endeavour to whip up, our position on this is very clear.