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Coal Mine Opponents Out Of Town And Out Of Touch

01/09/2015 7:33 AM AEST | Updated 15/07/2016 12:51 PM AEST
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Bloomberg via Getty Images
Coal spills out from a tower into a large pile at an Alpha Natural Resources Inc. coal preparation plant in Logan County near Yolyn, West Virginia, U.S., on Wednesday, Aug. 5, 2015. Alpha Natural Resources Inc. filed for bankruptcy in Virginia last week, becoming the latest victim of the coal industrys worst downturn in decades. Photographer: Luke Sharrett/Bloomberg via Getty Images

In Central and North Queensland, far from the latte-sipping circles of inner city Sydney and Melbourne, we have a problem.

Towns and cities like Mackay, Townsville, Bowen and Ayr have been struggling over the past two years as the region adjusts to a downturn in the resources sector which underpinned the economy.

In Mackay alone, where you could not find a house to rent for love nor money just a few years ago, there are now 1200 for rent and 3000 for sale. We've swung from the highs produced by a massive influx of investment and workers, to a low where businesses have gone bust, workers have left town and many others are hanging on in the hope of new development.

The plan to build the country's largest thermal coal mine in our vast remote hinterland, with associated rail and port infrastructure, is one such hope.

It represents an investment of $16.5 billion and it would produce royalties in excess of $22 billion, as well as an estimated 10,000 direct and indirect jobs. It is not dependent on the current coal price to secure its future as it is destined for India to provide some of that country's poorest with a cleaner form of energy, which will transform their lives.

This mine, however, and several other job-creating resource projects, is under threat from an extreme green activist machine which is hell-bent on destroying the entire Australian coal industry.

The project has faced court action on at least five different fronts, largely from extreme green activists who have no connection with the Carmichael Mine and who are located hundreds of kilometres away from the project site.

One of the key litigants is Mackay Conservation Group, based 600km from the site. They are assisted in their legal warfare (lawfare) by the Environmental Defender's Office in Sydney, which is even further removed from the site. This court action has been funded by Getup, another arm of the extreme green activist machine.

The Mackay Conservation Group used to be concerned with preservation and conservation issues in their own patch, but something changed about three years ago. The professionals moved in, the extreme green environmental activists with a single-minded agenda. These pros are a new and different breed. They're well trained, well-resourced, and networked in with extreme green groups across the country.

The current state of play for Adani's Carmichael coal project is that the mine's approval has been set aside with the approval of all parties due to minor legal technicalities, and it is being re-assessed. I expect the mine will then be approved again, as the environmental considerations have been exhaustive.

But the extreme green activist machine won't rest there. They have already indicated they are poised to undertake further legal action.

The Liberal National Coalition Government is undertaking a legal counter-offensive to end these actions which are ultimately destroying Australia's reputation as a good place to do business.

We are repealing Section 487.2 of the Environmental Protection Biodiversity Act to ensure that only those who are directly impacted by a project will be able to mount court challenges.

We are investigating the legitimacy of extreme green groups who claim tax deductibility status when they largely engage in political campaigns and legal warfare to divide communities and destroy jobs.

And we are also asking our state counterparts to end any donations to such organisations.

If they wish to protest about developments, that is their right. However, they have no right to use taxpayer-funded dollars to rob us of jobs, investment and opportunities.

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