Unsurprisingly, Hancock’s application to have its rail-line deemed ‘infrastructure of state significance’ was approved in early July by the Queensland’s coordinator general.
In Premier Bligh’s own words, this approval is “an important milestone towards a project that could help open up the Galilee Basin for the first time”. It also means that the government can ‘compulsorily acquire’ land should landholders wish not to be host to this madness.
In this statement, the Queensland premier unashamedly shows her colours in support of unleashing a massive new coal basin on the world – most of which will be exported to Asia and burnt in dirty coal-fired power stations. Over the life of the proposed mines, the ‘opening of the Galilee’ is likely to lead to around 30 billion tonnes of CO2 being transferred into the global atmosphere.
To make matters worse, the state’s endorsement for the new rail line and the plethora of new coal developments to follow, is in the absence of any relevant environmental impact studies being completed – let alone approved. This is a glaring insult to due process.
A recent article from Crikey offers some context for this. Bernard Keane aptly explains how the states in Australia effectively drive our national coal addiction rather than the federal government. Given the simple formula that over 30% of Australia’s national emissions are from coal-fired power stations and over 60% of the power produced in these power stations is owned by state governments, there is obviously a perverse disincentive for the states to make any significant change to the status quo. Australian states benefit economically from all stages of the coal cycle and so we are unlikely to see them promote any progressive change while this is still the case.
While democratic process may be struggling at the state level, at least out in the Galilee Basin there is a small sliver of hope with the west’s local paper, the Longreach Leader offering the only chance for residents to openly discuss the enormous change that their region is set to experience, without the heavy presumption that the future of coal in the region is inevitable. The first edition of the Galilee Basin News, dedicated to covering the proposed mining boom in the region, was published on the 25.6.10 and included an article on Bimblebox Nature Refuges (albeit with a few incorrect details).