Get out of our way on huge mines, Abbott told
Summary: Tony Abbott is under pressure to rush through the biggest coal mining expansion in Australian history, with Queensland Premier Campbell Newman telling the prime minister-elect to ''get out of the way'' in the Galilee Basin.....
In his first phone call with the Queensland Premier since winning the election, Mr Abbott asked his conservative counterpart what his priorities 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,'' Mr Newman told ABC Radio on Wednesday.
''It's really just to get out of the way, let this government get on with taking the state forward economically.''
The Galilee Basin, which sits about 400 kilometres inland from the Great Barrier Reef, houses potential coalmines that would dwarf anything ever developed in Australia.
Within this region, the federal government had delayed approval for the construction of the world's biggest coal port in Queensland until after the federal election.
Most mines in the basin are owned by two Indian companies, Adani and GVK, though magnates Clive Palmer and Gina Rinehart also have significant interests.
Mr Palmer is confronting a conflict of interest, given his Palmer United Party is likely to win two seats in the Senate and will potentially negotiate legislation that could benefit the magnate's assets in the Galilee Basin.
Mr Abbott says one of the main priorities of his government is to ''cut green tape'', which would involve setting up a ''one-stop shop'' for environmental approvals and handing decisions to the states.
Asked on Wednesday about the Abbott government's plans for the Galilee Basin, likely new environment minister Greg Hunt said the ''general approach'' was for a ''one-stop shop'' but the Coalition would ''carefully'' assess individual projects. The Galilee Basin coalmines are at present in various states of approval, with many subject to court appeals from landholders and environmentalists.
Labor disagrees with Mr Abbott's ''one-stop shop'' approach, which could eventually give state premiers such as Mr Newman the final say on massive coal projects.
''The national government should always retain final approval for matters of national and environmental significance,'' said former environment minister Mark Butler. Mr Butler pointed to the potentially catastrophic impacts of dredging for the expanded coal-loading terminal at Abbot Point, about 25 kilometres north of Bowen on the Queensland coast. The planned port expansion would mean 3 million tonnes of mud would be dredged and dumped in the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park.
The development is seen as a keystone to allowing a massive expansion of coal exports from the Galilee Basin, which would lead to more than 100 million tonnes of greenhouse gases being released, seriously damaging efforts to tackle climate change.
So big is the Galilee Basin that it ''recalibrates the way we understand coal mining in Australia'', said Julie Macken, a spokeswoman for Greenpeace Australia-Pacific.
''We're used to thinking of coal mining as something that comes out of the community. With Galilee forget about that.''