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Friday, 20 November 2009

While federal Labor takes credit for Australia’s stellar economic performance compared to other OECD countries, the government continues to rubber-stamp development of the coal mines that are responsible for the country’s economic strength.

A week ago, Environment Minister Peter Garrett said ‘No’ to the Traveston Dam, due to be constructed in SE Queensland against solid opposition from locals. But The Australian reports today that:

THE resources industry has shrugged off the world downturn, increasing the value of committed resource projects to a record $112.5 billion.

And there is a big increase in the number of new projects undergoing feasibility testing.

The story on page 6 details new coal developments, including the Kevin’s Corner thermal coal project, in Queensland.

Despite the global focus on climate change, coal developments dominated the new listings, with 18 new projects announced.

Big projects designed to ease the bottlenecks that choked exports during the boom are close to commissioning, including a new $1.1bn coal terminal and the $456m expansion of an existing terminal at the Port of Newcastle.

The $818m expansion of the coal loader at Dalrymple Bay in Queensland will be completed in 2011.

On the same page another story, ‘Mining boom spills into rents’, tells us that rents in the NSW country town of Gunnedah have risen by $50 a week since last year. The influx of engineers is due to the size of a coal seam in the Gunnedah Basin.

The basin has one of the world’s largest underground coal seams and is regarded as being on par with Australia’s largest offshore find, the $50 billion Gorgon gasfields off Western Australia.

It’s a pity that these stories are located in page 6. Placing them on page one would seem an ideal way for the conservative broadsheet to attack federal Labor in a sensitive spot.

Even more ironic, perhaps, is that a third story on the same page talks about the Victorian government’s successful public-private partnership capital raising exercise, which closed recently. The refinancing of Victoria’s desalination plant was the largest PPP in the world since the GFC started last year.

As a result of federal Labor stopping the Traveston Dam development in Queensland, it seems likely that the Queensland government will move to build two desalination plants. Sunshine Coast residents are already planning a counteroffensive. I wonder if the federal minister will stop them going ahead.

It seems unlikely since the successful construction of a desal plant in Sydney last year.

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