Candidate: Coal industry wrecking Queensland’s future

Mike Crook, the Socialist Alliance candidate for Sandgate in the March 24 Queensland state elections, is a former ALP member, who radicalised when working on construction and mining projects over many years. Mike is active in community and environmental campaigns in the Sandgate area, including the Transition Towns movement.

He has strong family connections to the Gladstone area and has been a close observer of the process of industrialisation and environmental degradation suffered by that town and its harbour over the past few years. He spoke to Green Left Weekly’s Jim McIlroy about the coal and coal seam gas mining industries in central and northern Queensland.

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The recent excision of Queensland’s ports from the operation of the Environmental Protection Act should be sounding warning bells for all who are concerned about the environmental health of our harbours and the Great Barrier Reef.

Degradation of our waterways is not a new thing. For years we have had nutrient run-off from agriculture creating major problems for our rivers, estuaries and reef, especially from sugar cane growing areas.

But now Queensland is faced with, if possible, a far greater menace — the deliberate poisoning of our waterways by uncontrolled and unregulated mining and marine activity.

It is time to ask, just who is in control here? Why has the Queensland Labor government not only refused to protect our waterways but, by their spineless submission to the coal and gas barons, sent a message that it is open slather.

Companies such as Queensland Gas Corporation, a subsidiary of the British Gas Group, have been given the green light to rape and pillage our resources to their hearts’ content.

Clive Palmer, the obscenely rich coalmine owner, expects approval from the ALP state government to mine an 8000 hectare nature reserve, Bimblebox, in the Galilee Basin. This is despite Palmer being the Liberal National Party’s (LNP) biggest funder in its battle to take over the state from Labor.

Mining and gas employs very few workers in the production phase. It is largely an automated industry, so they can’t even justify using the excuse of employment for allowing these destructive industries to perpetuate and grow.

It has been estimated that for every mining job created, we lose two or three in tourism and primary industry. Add to this the job losses caused in manufacturing due to the artificially high Australian dollar, which has climbed as a direct result of the mining boom.

On top of this are the drastic climate change implications of the increased burning of coal. The projected exports of coal from Queensland fields will increase from 280 million tonnes a year to close to 1000 million tonnes a year in 10 years.

The burning of this coal alone would end any chance of keeping the world's temperature increase to less than 2°C and would lead to runaway climate change.

The Queensland government has apparently not yet worked out the connection between burning coal and the extreme weather events we have experienced over the past few years. The rest of the world has.

Socialist Alliance calls on the Queensland government to issue no new exploration or mining licences, and to revoke those where work has not yet commenced. This is preparatory to a complete nationalisation program for all resource industries so that these resources, which rightfully belong to us all, may be managed for the benefit of the community and for the health of the world environment.

Unlike the ALP and LNP, the Socialist Alliance has a clear commitment to build for the future. We have to make the world a safer, healthier place for our children and grandchildren. Capitalism, as a system, has shown that it cannot, and will not, do this. Only socialism can achieve this essential goal.