Coal subsidy claims under fire

Bligh Government claims that taxpayers have been subsidising the Queensland coal industry "over decades" should be scrutinised by State Parliament as a matter of urgency, according to the Queensland Resources Council.

Bligh Government claims that taxpayers have been subsidising the Queensland coal industry ‘over decades’ should be scrutinised by State Parliament as a matter of urgency, according to the Queensland Resources Council.

The peak representative body for the state’s resource sector industries said the Premier and a senior Cabinet Minister had both referred to ‘coal industry subsidies’ in the past 24 hours, contradicting previous public statements.

Premier Bligh told a media conference yesterday that: “Queensland taxpayers have, in effect, been subsidising the transport arrangements [of coal companies] for several decades.”

And today, Public Works Minister Robert Schwarten told a central Queensland radio audience that coal companies had been ‘bludging off taxpayers’.

“I find it remarkable that after 11 years in power, the state government is conceding that it has effectively misled the electorate,” said Queensland Resources Council Chief Executive Michael Roche.

“In the Parliament and in the media, both the Premier and Deputy Premier have in the recent past made it clear that that the coal industry pays for all infrastructure built on its behalf by government-owned corporations.

“These subsidy claims represent an extraordinary reaction to a request from the coal industry for the government to examine an alternative offer to buy the central Queensland coal track network.

“The industry is simply asking for its offer to be judged alongside the government’s preferred option of a public float of both the coal trains and coal track businesses.

“Surely it is in the interests of Queensland taxpayers to have on the table an alternative offer from the coal industry, which may not only produce an attractive short-term return to the state but also deliver a superior long-term result in improving the performance of the export supply chain.

“The dividend for taxpayers from an efficient export supply chain is more coal royalties funding more hospital beds, more teachers and more police.”

The QRC also released more detailed responses to the claims made by the government about the coal industry and its position on QR privatisation.

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