Ms O'CONNOR question to PREMIER, Mr HODGMAN
Your Government has followed other parties and now has a goal of 100 per cent renewables by 2022 - well done and, as your minister would say, well noted. At the same time, your Government is ramping up exploration and mining of thermal coal, with operations on fertile farmlands in Woodbury and Jericho, Avoca and alongside the Douglas Apsley National Park. Your Government has also handed out almost $80 000 in public money to coal companies, presumably to grow the industry here. Is your Government really prepared to sacrifice farmers, tourism, businesses, our clean green brand, dismiss Aboriginal Tasmanians as the ultimate custodians of this island, lutruwita, and undermine our contribution towards a safe climate for our children by enabling this industry, which has caused so much damage globally, to ramp up coal extraction and exports from Tasmania?
Madam Speaker, I thank the member for the question. It is true to say that under our Government, the coal industry was a part of Tasmania's industrial landscape, including existing operations in the Fingal Valley. I understand the member may well have acknowledged that there is a heritage of this sector in our state, which supports the employment of Tasmanians and supports industrial development and progress economically in our state, which we strongly support, as we do increased activity in mining, forestry and our salmon industry, other productive industries we strongly support. We do not cherry-pick like the true Leader of the Opposition, who I note was acknowledging the significant investment and established operations in the Fingal Valley with respect to coal, but I do not accept, and nor should anyone accept, that the Leader of the Greens is correct in saying that we are ramping up our activities or backing a coal mine in this state, as is asserted.
Ms O'Connor - Well, you've given them a grant.
Madam SPEAKER - Order.
Mr HODGMAN - The facts are there are two coal exploration licences for coal that exist in the Southern Midlands held by companies associated with Midland Energy. The licences were granted under a Labor government in 2008 and continued to exist throughout the period of the Labor-Greens government. Both exploration licences are currently pending renewal. I can assure those businesses and the broader community that we will not do as some might suggest and interfere in the process. The minister will not take any statutory decision-making roles under the Mineral Resources Development Act without doing so responsibly and advisedly as the community would expect, including any advice from the department on licences granted, including those that were granted under Labor and the Greens.
We will follow due and proper process and focus on ensuring that the state's best interests are well represented. That includes taking into account all those matters under that legislation which include a public interest test. Our agricultural sector, which is growing under this Government, is strongly supported and invested in by this Government, and we expect it to grow. We will not have anything that interferes with productive farming land.
I make it clear that applications received under this grant process are assessed at arm's length against a set of criteria by a panel which includes staff from MRT and two independent geologists. Information gained from the drilling improves the understanding of the geology in an area which, in turn, provides valuable information for sustainable land use planning.
Ms O'Connor - What if they find coal?
Mr HODGMAN - Midland Energy was successful in being awarded a grant of up to $50 000 in round two of the exploration drilling grant initiative in May 2019 -
Madam SPEAKER - Order. I am struggling to hear.
Mr HODGMAN - but to assess the grant the company will need to complete the agreed drilling program, provide a report and drill core to MRT, and go through all the necessary processes. A lot of water has to go under the bridge -
Dr Woodruff - What about the scientific process?
Madam SPEAKER - Dr Woodruff, warning one.
Mr HODGMAN - That will not stop the Leader of the Greens trying to whip up hysteria around this matter.
I can say that licences granted under Labor and sustained under Labor and the Greens, without any intervention by the Greens members of that coalition government, are matters that we respect and are part of an appropriate process we will not interfere with. That would only also lead to further damage to our economy, which we know is something that does not concern the Greens or their coalition partners, the Labor Party. We need to ensure that our economy can continue to sustainably grow, protecting all things special about it. Our industrial base, our resources, our job-generating industries such as tourism and that which is supported by our brand will continue to positively progress under this Government and not stall into recession, as they did under yours.