Greens Senator for NSW Lee Rhiannon was stonewalled yesterday in Budget Estimates by the head of the Australian Rail Track Corporation (ARTC) who refused to expand on meetings held with Chinese miner Shenhua Watermark Coal Pty Ltd on plans to move coal from Gunnedah to Port Kembla in the Illawarra, bypassing Newcastle Port, because the company missed the deadline for use of the Newcastle coal loader (click here for audio).
Previously secret documents obtained by NSW Greens MP Jeremy Buckingham show the company has been having monthly meetings with the ARTC. Shenhua's plans for coal mining on the Liverpool Plans has met strong opposition from local farmers for destroying prime agricultural land.
"The CEO of the ARTC Mr John Fullerton continually refused to answer questions that may shine some light on whether there are plans afoot to build a rail link from Gunnedah to the Illawarra in order to boost the profits of this Chinese government majority-owned coal company," Senator Rhiannon said.
"The ARTC head also dodged questions about whether any payments have been made by Shenhua to help facilitate the export of coal through Port Kembla rather than Newcastle.
"The NSW and Federal government's thirst for mining dollars is driving investment in rail infrastructure, not for the NSW public but for multi-national coal companies such as Shenhua.
"Throwing the cloak of 'commercial in confidence' over my questioning, Mr Fullerton's performance underlines how the governments' real allies are the coal industry, not the Australian public or the environment.
"Sadly, the only real information provided by Mr Fullerton was that the scale of coal moving from the Hunter through Newcastle Port has triggered development of a fourth coal loader for the region." Senator Rhiannon said.