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Senate votes to keep paper trail on altered coal dust report behind closed doors

Media Release
Lee Rhiannon 25 Jun 2013

Greens Senator Lee Rhiannon has accused federal Labor and Liberal MPs of working together to block public access to the documents that could explain why the data and recommendations of a Hunter coal dust report commissioned by the federal government's Australian Rail Track Corporation (ARTC) were substantially changed before final release.

A copy of the draft ARTC report, leaked to the Australian Greens and a Newcastle community group, showed significant changes between the draft and final report that downplayed the extent of particulate dust from coal trains.

"It is extremely disappointing that the old parties voted together in the Senate late yesterday to block a Greens motion to produce all of the documents and correspondence related to the doctored ARTC report", said Senator Rhiannon.

"A big question mark remains over how and why this coal dust report was changed. To restore public confidence, federal MPs should be throwing the doors open to release these documents, not keeping the paper trail behind closed doors.

"Under my questioning in budget estimates in May, the ARTC admitted that the NSW Environmental Protection Authority had seen a draft of the coal dust report and made comments back to the ARTC.

"The Greens order for documents included all correspondence between Transport Minister Anthony Albanese, the ARTC, the consultant that undertook the study and the NSW Environmental Protection Authority.

"If there is nothing to hide, surely there is no reason to block this order for documents.

"This ARTC study was about the health impacts of coal dust associated with rail coal wagons. For over a decade Hunter residents have been trying to have a thorough study undertaken of the health implications of coal dust, and time and time again the old parties have acted to block any inquiry and protect the coal industry. This is the latest example of this unsavoury relationship.

"The Greens will continue to press Transport Minister Anthony Albanese and the ARTC in Senate estimates to get to the bottom of why this coal dust data was so drastically revised", said Senator Rhiannon.

Motion: That there be laid on the table by the Minister representing the Minister for Infrastructure and Transport, by 27 June 2013, all documents relating to the production of the report, Pollution Reduction Program 4.2 Particulate Emissions from Coal Trains, dated May 2013, prepared for the Australian Rail Track Corporation (ARTC) by Katestone Environmental Pty Ltd, from 1 July 2012 until present, including correspondence between the ARTC and the Minister, the department, the New South Wales Environmental Protection Authority and the report consultant.

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