The Australian Coal Association (ACA) have dropped a bombshell on the government, warning that coal mines will have to close and investment will be forced offshore if a carbon tax is introduced. They support a price on carbon but are urging the government to phase it in over time like the European Union was doing. When they analysed data from 82 coal mines, they found that 5,000 jobs will be lost in the first three years.
ACA Executive Director of ACA Ralph Hillman said they surveyed 82 coal mines in Queensland and New South Wales and gathered sensitive cost data for each mine. It then used assumptions about future carbon tax rate prices and future coal prices. "We put those numbers together and what they are designed to do is see how the cost of individual coal mines will be impacted by the tax and whether they can stay above water" he said. "What we found is that by 2020, 18 mines will no longer be above water, will no longer be profitable and are therefore at risk of closure." He went on "There are 4,700 direct mining jobs and another 10,000 indirect jobs because there are three jobs associated with every one coal mining job - so about 14,000 Australian jobs."
Resources Minister Martin Ferguson looked very stressed in an interview on television this morning and said the ACA had got it all wrong. He also lashed out at Fortescue Chief Executive Andrew "Twiggy" Forrest over his threat of a High Court challenge against Labor's mining tax.
Martin Ferguson said "We accept that there are some gaseous mines that are going to be challenged under a carbon tax, that's why we are engaged in discussions with the industry" he said. Opposition spokesman Ian Macfarlane was quick to point out that Mr Ferguson's comments were an admission that some coal mine jobs would be "sacrificed" under a carbon tax. He added "No matter what spin the government tries to put on its carbon tax, the truth is that it will cost Australian jobs as well as send up the cost of living for Australian householders."
There is an important meeting being held in Canberra today. Andrew Forrest, Wayne Swan, Martin Ferguson and Independents Andrew Wilkie and Bob Katter will hopefully resolve the continuing saga of the carbon tax, one way or the other.