November 10, 2016
Deputy Opposition Leader and Member for Nanango Deb Frecklington has condemned “a dirty deal with the crossbench” which she says could wipe out almost 700 jobs at Acland Coal Mine.
She said Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk must explain why the livelihoods of Acland workers aren’t worth saving.
In the early hours of Thursday morning in State Parliament, the ALP – with the support of Katter’s Australia Party and Independent MPs – passed groundwater legislation that will affect all mines currently under development in Queensland.
Mines that will have an impact on groundwater will be required to obtain an “associated water licence”.
A last-minute amendment granted an exemption to Adani’s controversial Carmichael Mine in the Galilee Basin, but did not cover New Hope’s Stage III expansion at Acland.
Environment Minister Dr Steven Miles said the State Government was fulfilling its election commitment to reverse Newman Government laws which had sought to deregulate the mining industry.
“Queensland’s environment has been under threat from a ticking time-bomb; reckless laws passed by the LNP which were left waiting to commence automatically on December 6,” Dr Miles said.
“After lengthy debate, the threat to the environment and rural communities created by those laws has been defused.”
Dr Miles said the Bill also provided stronger rights for farmers.
“This will be achieved by improving the existing ‘make good’ obligations under the underground water management framework in the Water Act 2000,” he said.
“When they become law, the amendments we passed will ensure landholders are in a stronger negotiating position and are fairly compensated for impacts on their infrastructure and the water resources they rely on.”
However, Mrs Frecklington said she had already received calls from Acland workers and their families devastated by Thursday morning’s events and the “callous disregard” shown by the Premier.
“In one fell swoop, Labor has plunged the future of local families into uncertainty,” Ms Frecklington said.
“Annastacia Palaszczuk needs to explain to the employees of the Acland mine why their livelihoods weren’t worth saving from her job-destroying legislation.
“We do not at all begrudge communities in Central and North Queensland for the fact that Labor has finally seen fit to excuse the Adani mine from unnecessary extra water approvals, but why didn’t she do the same for the Acland mine?
“Without a timely approval for the Acland expansion, the project will literally run out of coal, leaving nothing to mine and further job losses.
“Annastacia Palaszczuk promised Queenslanders she would create jobs and yet has sacrificed jobs to save her own.
“Let me be clear, the LNP fully supported the make-good provisions in this legislation to protect farmers’ groundwater, but we fought hard against the unfair provisions that would force mining projects that had already received environmental approval from both State and Federal Governments into another lengthy approval and objection process.”
Toowoomba mayor Paul Antonio said he feared for the future of the Acland mine workers and the flow-on effects to the Oakey area.
“While this is a State issue, I am particularly worried about the disruption that this legislative change will cause the workers employed at the New Acland mine,” Mayor Antonio said.
“This 11th hour change to the mine’s expansion application, which has been in train for around seven years, creates an unnecessary hurdle for the mine owners, their 275 staff and the 500 contractors who rely on the mine for their livelihoods.
“The law change creates more uncertainty not only for the Acland workforce, but also the businesses that benefit from the current operations and those planning to cater for the expansion of the site.
“The past year has been a difficult time for Oakey and surrounding areas and I view this latest decision as another cruel blow to the immediate Oakey area at a time when these people need the support of their government.
“The extra time that would be needed to apply for a water licence compounds the uncertainty for everyone concerned.”