Clean Energy Bills - coal industry


Senator IAN MACDONALD (Queensland) (19:31): I have some questions relating to the coal industry, which is a very important part of the state that I come fromQueenslandand of Northern Australia. This is not a reflection on your chairmanship, Temporary Chairman Cameron. But I want to point out to you that in the last hour we have had some questions from our side to the minister and then we have had Labor Party and Greens senatorstwo Greens senators in a rowgetting the call when between them the Labor Party and the Greens have curtailed this debate down to a very short period of time. I have a lot of questions. These people were on the committee that put this legislation together. Why are the Greens now wasting our time questioning the government about a package that they put together If the chair is going to be at all fair about this, it must be understood that the Greens have a very small representation in this chamber. To call one of us, then one of the Greens, then one of us and then another of the Greens gives them an enormous advantage. And they are the people who agreed with the Labor Party on this package. They put it together. If they had any questions about this package, they should have asked them at the time they put this together.

We have a very restricted amount of time. A number of my colleagues here at the moment want to ask questions. I am confining myself tonight to 15 minutes, because I want others to have an opportunity. But we are going to keep getting interrupted by the Greens, who joined with the Labor Party to guillotine the time for these 18 bills down to the shortest committee stage for any debate held in this chamber for a long period of timeif you take the debate as being about 18 bills. I know that I have wasted a little time in saying this, but that point had to be made. We are in a guillotined debate. There are 18 bills that have to be gone through in detail. And yet the Greens keep getting up and giving little speeches, wasting our time. I plead with you, Mr Temporary Chairman, and all others who might take the chair, to be fair and equitable in relation to the questions that are asked.

Having said that, I will move on to the questions that I want to ask about the coal industry, which is very important in North Queensland. It supports the communities of Gladstone, Rockhampton, Mackay, Townsville, Mt Isa and Moranbahan enormous number of coal towns. And it is not just the coal towns. A lot of workers have purchased brand new houses down on the coast and have big mortgages. Their jobs are at risk.

In the very short period that I have allotted myself tonight, because others want to have questions as well, I want to focus on fugitive emissions. Those listening on the radio will know that fugitive emissions relate to the mining not the burning of coal. Fugitive emissions vary enormously from mine to mine and represent about five per cent to six per cent of Australia\'s total greenhouse emissions. Just to put that in perspective, methane emissions from livestock account for 11 per cent. The government proposes to tax fugitive emissions from coal mining. Minister, is it correct that no other coal exporting country imposes a tax on fugitive emissions from coal mining Is it a fact, Minister, that the European Union emissions trading scheme specifically exempts those emissions, even though European Union emissions are larger in volume than those in Australia Minister, is it also true that none of Australia\'s competitors in the coal export marketscountries such as Indonesia, Columbia, Russia, South Africa, Canada and the United States, which all have large coal mining industriesare contemplating a tax on fugitive emissions

The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN ( Senator Cameron ): Senator Macdonald raised the question of the fairness of the chairing of this session. I have sought some advice on that and I have been advised that my chairing has been consistent with the conventions of the Senate.

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