Mr PASIN (Barker) (19:55): Precisely two weeks ago in this place the Treasurer stood here and delivered the budget. It was a budget that was focused on the better days ahead and it was a budget that had at its heart unlocking opportunities across sectors in our great nation. So imagine my surprise when I woke up this morning to hear news emanating from the Palaszczuk Labor government in Queensland that one of our nation’s great opportunities had been put at risk as a result of the decision—or perhaps a lack of any decisive decision—taken yesterday by that government. Of course, I am speaking of the Adani Carmichael mine in the Galilee Basin. To provide some detail, this is a mine that will see 60 million tonnes of coal exported a year—remembering that there are about six billion tonnes of coal mined around the world. It is a project that would provide 5,079 jobs during the construction phase—remembering, of course, that this is in a region which is experiencing shockingly high unemployment rates—and 4,520 jobs during the operation phase.
You might ask why a South Australian would be so concerned about this. Obviously there are questions around the national interest, but there is a much more parochial concern. Mr Speaker, you know as I do that Arrium, with their steelworks at Whyalla, is a business that is in a quite precarious position. What we have there is a business that employs 1,600 South Australians in Whyalla directly and another 1,400 indirectly. It entered administration in April 2016 with debts of around $4 billion—$2.8 billion of that debt is owed to Arrium’s financiers, Australia’s four big banks. Arrium have effectively secured the contract from Adani to lay 400 kilometres of railway line, or at least to supply them 54,000 tonnes of steel. That is the railway line that will link the Carmichael coalmine to Abbot Point, at the coast. The South Australian Chamber of Mines and Energy chief executive, Rebecca Knol, said the deal was a vital breakthrough for Arrium’s administrators KordaMentha and the city of Whyalla, which is facing massive job losses if the steelworks closes. Mr Speaker, you might ask yourself: if that is being put at risk, who else is running interference? The usual suspects—there are environmentalists who are campaigning heavily against Australia’s largest potential coalmine. Disappointingly, we saw Westpac indicate recently that they would rule out lending funds to the project, preferring instead, in their words, ‘a project with higher quality coal’.
But I am not here speaking of that. Mr Speaker, someone who occupied your position once gave me the best advice anyone could ever give someone in politics. I am speaking, of course, of the Hon. Neil Andrew. He said, ‘Tony, whatever you do, be consistent.’ I am going to call out some inconsistency right now. In Whyalla, Nick Xenophon and Rebekha Sharkie will talk about Aussie jobs and the need to protect Arrium’s steel workers.
The member for Mayo—sorry, Mr Speaker. They call out the need for Aussie jobs, but in this place, when they are asked to stand up and support the Adani project, there is deathly silence. The member for Mayo has indicated that she is not convinced it is in the national interest to support this project to the tune of $900 million—which, of course, would be a multi-user railway line from Abbot Point to the coal port. What I ask Senator Xenophon and the member for Mayo to do is to go to Whyalla. Tell the steelworkers in that community that it is not in the national interest to secure the future of this mine and the $74 million of railway steel that will be contracted as a result of this. As Neil Andrew indicated to me, you have to be consistent. I want them to stand up for Aussie jobs, to stand up for the Adani coalmine and to do it now.