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Thermal Coal Projects 

Dr Rosalie Woodruff MP

Dr Rosalie Woodruff MP  -  Thursday, 25 June 2020

Tags: Climate Change, Coal, Greenhouse Gas Emissions

Dr WOODRUFF (Franklin) - Madam Speaker, the continued support by this Government for thermal coal projects in Tasmania remains an ongoing concern to many people in the community and to the Greens.  Despite the climate emergency that we are in and the massive community opposition to coal, gas and other fossil fuels - because people understand that it is more important now than ever to stop using these sources of fuel so that we can reduce our collective omissions - the Government continues to have a commitment to supporting thermal coal in Tasmania.  The Government has net zero emissions as a nominal objective into the future but that is totally meaningless if we were to start exporting emissions through thermal coal projects.  The Government's actions show that despite the rhetoric of wanting to achieve net zero emissions their actions demonstrate that they are prepared to do exactly the opposite. 
The recent history is that Midland Energy group was granted two exploration licences last year and received the promise of a $50 000 drilling grant to help them seek investment from an American company.  Junction Coal had one exploration licence and received a $23 000 drilling grant from the Government for hard rock coal with a mining lease attached to it.  All those companies want to export thermal coal.  Tasmanians were very shocked to understand the extent of those projects and the preparedness of the Government to support these, essentially, speculative investment opportunities by international companies with a reckless disregard for the impact on the environment. 

When the Greens found this out, we moved a motion in parliament to clarify the Government's position and to make it clear to Tasmania what that was.  Our motion was to ban all new thermal coal mines in Tasmania.  It should have been an entirely uncontroversial motion given that we were in a climate emergency and given the widespread community discussion about this with the school strikes for climate movement and all the other conversations that we are in the midst of.   
The Greens' motion was supported by dozens of non-government organisations, hundreds of academics - these are Tasmanians - and many other important community members including a former Labor premier and a former environment minister.  The fact was that no-one in this House, except for the Greens, supported that motion.  The Labor Party and the Liberal Party members voted against that motion. 
Where are we now?  Midland Energy exploration licences expired in September 2019.  That company applied for a one-year extension and nine months later that renewal is still pending from the Government.  Typically, that assessment process should take two to three months at the absolute outside but if the company did not meet the licence renewal requirements the process demands that the application ought to be rejected.  Clearly, the Government is trying to support the Midland project going ahead in any way possible, or possibly they themselves do not want to publicly endorse the signing-off on an extension of an exploration licence yet again. 
The Junction Coal exploration licence expired in mid-April this year and evidently the company did not reapply.  However, within three weeks the site they had that exploration licence over was once again listed as an exploration release area by the Government's department, Mineral Resources Tasmania.   
Even though there is no company interested in being involved any longer in exploration in that area the Government is still insistent on trying to push ahead thermal coal projects in Tasmania.  The Government's agenda is about marketing itself as pursuing zero net emissions at the same time as pursuing policies and projects that are entirely damaging to our climate and to the people of Tasmania.  They are doing everything possible to get thermal coal projects off the ground, even though a perfect exit opportunity presented itself.  They could have ended thermal coal projects in Tasmania without losing face with both of those companies finishing their licences, but the Government has refused to let thermal coal opportunities die in Tasmania.  They continue to keep on knocking down carbon rich forests. 
In this process, Labor has backed the Government in every single step of the way.  They continue to back them in on the exploration of thermal coal licences in Tasmania.  They continue to back them in on clear felling and logging our carbon rich native forests in Tasmania. 
Fossil fuel donations are clearly the factor that drives the voting by both of these parties in this place, and it is more important than anything else, even the health and wellbeing of Tasmanians. 
Coronavirus and the global pandemic have not meant that the climate crisis has stopped.  We know there could be nothing further from the truth, sadly.  Recently, we recorded a 38-degree day in the Arctic Circle - never before recorded.  It is a truly horrifying figure if you think about it - the Arctic Circle with 38 degrees. 
The worst Australian fire season ever just happened a few months ago.  We are still moving rapidly towards a tipping point with the climate crisis, and whilst our focus has been on coronavirus, 

we cannot forget the biggest catastrophe that this planet faces, the humans and all the other flora and fauna that inhabit it. 
One of the few simple actions that the Government could take is to draw a line in the sand over this ludicrous idea of exploring thermal coal exploration in Tasmania.  It is a once in a lifetime opportunity in the COVID-19 recovery period to make it very clear to these predatory, speculative companies, that there will be no opportunity for them to explore, or mine, thermal coal in Tasmania.