In his first telephone conversation with the new Prime Minister Tony Abbott since winning the election, Queensland Premier Campbell Newman told him to “get out of the way” in the Galilee Basin. Abbott asked Newman what his main concerns were for Queensland.
“[Mr Abbott]…asked me what the blockers were for my government and I said without any hesitation the need to see the massive Galilee Basin coal projects approved as soon as possible,” Newman told ABC Radio.
“It’s really just to get out of the way, let this government get on with taking the state forward economically.”
The Age said the coal mines in the Galilee Basin are at different stages of approval, with many in the grips of court appeals from environmentalists and landholders.
Gina Rinehart’s $6.4 billion Alpha coal mine was received federal government approval after previously being rejected by former federal environmental minister Tony Burke.
The federal government had postponed grants for building the world’s largest coal port in Queensland until after the federal election.
The newly elected federal government’s possible environment minister Greg Hunt said the “general approach” for the Galilee Basin is a “one-stop-shop” but the Coalition would “assess” each project.
But Labor and the Greens are against the approach, saying it could result in enormous environmental harm.
Greens Senator Larissa Waters said the party would battle against any legislation that would let Newman make the decision.
If water supplies are threatened from big mining and gas projects, it sets of a ‘water trigger’, meaning they have to be assessed by the Commonwealth.
It is not yet known if states would be given control of this.
Previous environment minister Mark Butler fears the effects of dredging for the expanded coal-loading terminal at Abbot Point, 25 kilometres north of Bowen Basin.
“The national government should always retain final approval for matters of national and environmental significance,” he said.
The decision to expand Abbot Point Coal terminal was delayed last month as Butler assessed the impact of dredging around the area.
While a final decision was expected in July, Butler said he needed more time to make the assessment.
Three million tonnes of mud would be dredged and thrown in the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park under the port expansion.
The expansion of coal exports from the Galilee Basin could mean 100 million tonnes of greenhouse gases is emitted.
Environmental groups opposing Galilee Basin coal mines recently warned they would target hip pockets of financial backers of projects, with rail firm Aurizon first off the line.
Aurizon and Indian mining giant GVK announced a partnership earlier this year to built $6 billion worth of rail and port infrastructure for mining projects in Queensland.