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Greens Senator for Western Australia Scott Ludlam says WA Premier Colin Barnett’s concern over the sale of the Wesfarmers Premier Coal mine clashes with his previously enthusiastic support of Chinese investment.
Ludlam said Barnett was “speaking with a forked tongue” on China, especially after the trade and investment deals he made with it following his visit to the country last week.
“Last week the Premier happily announced a deal that rolls out the red carpet for Chinese mining companies, and this week he expresses concern about the kind of activity he is encouraging,” he said.
Yesterday Barnett said the sale of the Collie coal mine to Chinese-owned Yancoal Australia for $296.8 million raised concerns for the security of the state’s power supply.
The Premier Coal mine is a major supplier to the WA-owned power generator Verve Energy, which produces about 60 per cent of the power for the state’s southwest grid.
Barnett said he expected Yancoal to honour short term contracts, but was not sure about long-term supply.
“I’m not jumping up and down celebrating, this is a problem for the state, no doubt about it,” he told ABC radio.
Last week Barnett returned from a visit to China spruiking a signed memorandum of understanding between WA and China’s National Development and Reform Commission.
The deal symbolised a trade and investment co-operation deal between WA and China over resources, energy, agriculture, food, and infrastructure.
The Greens later criticised Barnett over the visit, which they said was a move to expand foreign exploitation of Australian resources.
But Barnett told Fairfax radio the deal symbolised that WA had “hitched its rail cart to China”.
Greens WA MLC Robin Chapple said today that Barnett’s anger over the Wesfarmers deal following the China MOU was a contradiction.
“It is extraordinary that Mr Barnett would sign a deal to increase the ease with which Chinese companies exploit WA’s resources, then play at being worried by the natural consequences of such a deal,” he said.
The Gillard government said Barnett’s anger over Premier Coal did not send the right message to foreign investors.
Finance Minister Penny Wong told Sky News yesterday she had been confused by Barnett’s stance.
“I would have thought Premier Barnett would know there’s a lot of benefit to foreign investment and Chinese investment,” she said.
“It seems odd now he’s saying it’s not a good thing.”