In one week in February Labor, Liberal and National Senators voted together three times in a show of support for the coal industry. This meant that the Senate failed to pass Greens motions highlighting crucial environmental problems associated with coal mining in the Blue Mountains and the Leard Forest. A third motion on the need for a major coal company, which is also a Liberal and Labor donor, to disclose its ownership structure was also defeated.
The text of the motions is below.
The first motion was to support extending protection for the Gardens of Stone, which has come under multiple threats from mining, including the proposed extension of the Cullen Valley mine and now the Pine Dale Yarraboldy Stage 2 extension. The area is in the iconic Blue Mountains and contains unique internationally significant pagoda land formations. The area provides habitat for a number of key threatened species and contains nationally endangered upland swamps, a unique subspecies of snow gum and other grassy high plateau woodlands, as well as moist forest gullies.
Later the same day, the Greens moved another motion asking the minister to suspend his approval for the now infamous mine at Maules Creek, operated by Whitehaven. The mine has been the subject of immense concern in NSW, where over 250 people have been arrested at Maules Creek, including an IPCC contributor, 92 year old war veteran, former Wallabies captain, and Golden Guitar winner. NSW Labor approved the mine in the first place, despite there being major problems with the offsets proposed by the company, so perhaps it's not surprising that they did not want the motion to pass.
The final motion that was defeated is just as concerning. This was a call to have the ownership and taxation arrangements for the Adani Point coal terminal and Carmichael coal mines in Queensland made public. Adani gave both the Liberal and Labor parties major donations in the previous financial year. Perhaps there is a link between political donations and the decisions these parties make. But we don't know because they keep the deals hidden behind closed doors.
For whatever reason, it was certainly a week in parliament where Labor showed their true colours towards the coal industry and therefore meaningful action on climate change.
Motion - Gardens of Stone
Senator RHIANNON (New South Wales) (15:40): I move:
That the Senate-
(a) notes that:
(i) the Gardens of Stone in New South Wales and adjacent Ben Bullen, Newnes and Wolgan State Forests are spectacular landscapes that are habitats for many plants and wildlife, including national and state-listed threatened species,
(ii) in October 2014 the New South Wales Planning Assessment Commission found that the pagoda landforms in that area should be afforded special significance status and the highest possible level of protection, and
(iii) the Gardens of Stone and adjacent areas continue to be threatened by open cut and longwall mining proposals and will continue to be vulnerable to mining impacts until permanent protection is granted; and
(b) calls on the Federal Government to support the call for the New South Wales State Government to extend national parks protection for the Gardens of Stone stage two reserve proposal.
Motion - Matter of urgency on Maules Creek
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT ( Senator Lines ) (16:03): I inform the Senate that the President has received the following letter from Senator Siewert:
Pursuant to standing order 75, I give notice that today I propose to move that, in the opinion of the Senate, the following is a matter of urgency:
"The need for Minister Hunt to suspend the approval for the Maules Creek coal mine on the NSW Liverpool Plains and to act immediately to prevent further land clearing, due to commence on 15 February, of critically endangered vegetation in Leard State Forest."
Motion - Adani
Senator WATERS (Queensland) (12:25): I move:
That the Senate-
(a) notes recent media reporting which shows that Adani's ownership and taxation arrangements in relation to the Abbot Point coal terminal and proposed Carmichael coal mine lack transparency; and
(b) calls on the Federal Government to urgently establish which individuals or corporate entities control the Abbot Point coal terminal and the Carmichael mine and whether all relevant disclosures have been made to Australian regulators.