A FUTURE WITHOUT ADANI

We are led to believe that the economic future of North Queensland is utterly dependent upon the opening of the Adani Mine in the Galilee Basin. Without it, we are told that there will be massive unemployment and a general economic downturn.

Indeed, it is of such enormity that an election in Melbourne for the Seat of Batman in the Federal Parliament will be decided on the issue, even though the electorate and the mine are thousands of kilometres apart.

This nonsense, spread by politicians, free market advocates, climate change deniers and general fear mongers, badly fails the pub test.

The stark fact is that development of the North and the Inland has never been backed by either serious political will or genuine investment, nor has a well researched long term plan of sustainable development for the region ever been prepared, let alone implemented.

The Adani mine was chosen as a quick fix for years of neglect and it was based on series of appalling fabrications. Continue reading “A FUTURE WITHOUT ADANI”

THE ADANI ELECTION

Queenslanders go to the polls on Saturday, 25 November, to elect a State Government.

Ostensibly, it is a contest between Annastacia Palaszczuk and Tim Nicholls as to who will be Premier of the Queensland Parliament,

It is absolutely not.

The battle is about whether or not one of the largest coal mines in the world will be opened in the Galilee Basin of Queensland and send its coal to India via the Barrier Reef.

This creates a complicated political situation as both Palaszczuk and Nicholls strongly back the opening of the mine, as does the likely holder of the balance of power, Pauline Hanson and her competitor for that role – Robbie Katter.

One would think that this would place the Adani mine in the safest of political positions, but it does not. It is an issue that will dominate the headlines until voting day as Adani protesters turn up to disrupt every political meeting, particularly those of the Premier.

Its chief beneficiary will be the Greens who have never before prospered in Queensland.

They will gain the balance of power and deny Hanson her dream. Continue reading “THE ADANI ELECTION”

BIRTH OF A RAILWAY

Shortly after John Howard was elected Prime Minister of Australia in 1996, I visited him at Parliament to outline a plan that I had to build an Inland Railway from Melbourne to Darwin via Parkes, Toowoomba, Brisbane, Gladstone, Mount Isa and Tennant Creek.

He has readily agreed to see me as I had been his honorary fund raiser for the marginal seats he had to win in order to be PM. I was not a member of the Liberal Party and had done this with no strings attached as he was an old friend, and still his.

Howard apologised and said he did not see it as a priority. He wanted to carry out all of his election promises and this was not one of them. That decision blows the theory that politicians are duty bound to repay political debts, not that I ever expected him to do so.

I decided to undertake the project privately and formed a company that I called Australian Transport and Energy Corridor Ltd which is still operating 21 years later. It is largely responsible for the decision in last Tuesday’s Budget to fund the Melbourne Brisbane section of the Inland Railway.

Let me tell you the story of two decades of persistence. Continue reading “BIRTH OF A RAILWAY”

THE WINDSOR KNOT

Tony Windsor has made a decision that will change the political culture of Australia and instigate a long era of minority governments.

He will challenge Barnaby Joyce for the Seat of New England in the 2016 Federal Election and he has a better than even chance of winning, as do lots of independents across the nation. Continue reading “THE WINDSOR KNOT”

2016 – Turnbull year of destiny

My holiday reading included a very readable book called Born to Rule, an unauthorised biography of Malcolm Turnbull by veteran journalist Paddy Manning. I enjoyed it immensely.

Paddy makes it clear he is not a Turnbull fan, but he treats the Prime Minister in as unbiased a manner as is possible in politics and journalism. However, it is interesting that, in the end, he acknowledges that Turnbull has what it takes to be a great leader of the nation if he conquers a few idiosyncrasies. Continue reading “2016 – Turnbull year of destiny”

Economic Growth or Quality of Life – measuring the progress of a nation.

Politicians and economists calculate the stature and prosperity of a nation by the annual percentage increase in its Gross Domestic Product. Governments rise and fall on the basis of this statistic, mainly because nations are declared to be in recession if there is negative GDP growth on three successive occasions.

However, the thoughts of many support the view that it is long overdue for this inadequate gauge of a nation’s growth to be declared the farce that it is.

I want to suggest that it should be replaced by a new measure that could be called General Domestic Prosperity. This means that a GDP will still be calculated, but it will have a new meaning and a different basis of measurement. Continue reading “Economic Growth or Quality of Life – measuring the progress of a nation.”

The Search for Clean Coal

The coal industry is at a crisis point worldwide, and any fallout from its decline will impact heavily on the Australian economy.

Barack Obama has stated that his goal is to gradually shut-down every coal fired power station in the USA, and Green lobby groups worldwide are calling for the picketing of all new coal mines anywhere on the planet. Warren Buffett has said that decline of coal mining is gradual, but permanent.

Gas, more so than nuclear, is being promoted as the ideal alternate to totally replace coal and, to add to the problem, coal prices are steadily dropping to the point where it soon will become uneconomic to dig it up. Then, there is the issue of the relationship between miners and farmers, which is at a low ebb and becoming even more militant on both sides.

All of this uncertainty has led to a tightening of the equity and debt markets for coal mines, with junior miners not having strong enough balance sheets to back their development capital requirements. This leads us to a dismal looking future for coal — so the industry is now slowly and reluctantly seeking ways to turn its fortunes around. Continue reading “The Search for Clean Coal”

The Quest for Energy will dominate.

The Quest for Energy will dominate the politics of the future

The provision of energy to meet the growing needs of billions of people worldwide is an enormous economic challenge for every nation on earth. Half of the world does not have any form of power in their homes right now, and there is insufficient to meet the ever expanding needs of industry and transport.

The debate on the future of energy is about the use and abuse of oil, gas, coal, nuclear, wind, solar, hydro, tides, ethanol, etc — which is best, cheapest, more environmentally friendly, available and sustainable — and what influence does political and financial power have on all of them.

Have just read “The Quest” by Harvard Professor Daniel Yergin — an excellent analysis of the global energy situation that covers all of the above. Well written, reads like a thriller. It caused me to form the view that it is not possible to understand world economics without having a basic grasp of the impact of energy on the aspirations of humanity.

Is there a prosperous future for the Australian Bush?

Have we killed the legacy of John Flynn?

Out where the sun goes down, the people of the bush call him “Flynn of the Inland”. He was the man who, in the first half of the Twentieth Century, made a valiant attempt to create a “Mantle of Safety” across the remoteness of the continent by building hospitals and hostels in places like Birdsville, Innamincka, Oodnadatta and Halls Creek, creating the Pedal Radio and establishing the Flying Doctor Service so that ordinary Australians could make a new life in the Outback and feel secure.

He also enlisted a team of Padres who ministered to people in areas covering countless square miles — marrying, baptising, counseling and burying them — no matter what their faith or lack of it. By any standards, his life’s work was a notable achievement which will be honoured by historians for generations to come.

Now, sixty years after his death, we should be honest enough to admit that we have not built on the solid foundation created by his extraordinary endeavours. Continue reading “Is there a prosperous future for the Australian Bush?”

Can Australia survive without mining?

Any nation that aspires to have sustainable prosperity should have an economy that is equally reliant on agriculture, manufacturing, professional services, tourism, education, retailing and mining. It must be led by a lean, enlightened and compassionate government that creates a level playing field on which all of its citizens can be creative and competitive. To be heavily reliant on one industry is not smart, yet Australia currently places too much reliance on mining.

So, what should we do about creating a balanced economy in which mining is a stable cornerstone? Continue reading “Can Australia survive without mining?”

Is the mining boom over?

Is the mining boom over? No!  BHP’s panic decision not to proceed with the expansion of their mine at Olympic Dam reflects bad management of what was once Australia’s greatest company.  Is there a softening of world demand for resources? Yes!  Mainly caused by the recession in Europe, but the resources market was overheated and needed to calm down.  Will the softening continue? Yes!

What harm will this do to the Australian economy? Continue reading “Is the mining boom over?”

Is it a sin to sell the farm?

The gossip around town is that a majority of Australians believe that, when foreigners invest in farming in Australia, they actually dig-up the land and take it back home, lamentably leaving us with a continent which is just a massive hole in the ground.

From what I hear, the same majority enthusiastically applaud Australians who invest overseas; this is seen as courageous entrepreneurial activity by fine Australians who want to help lesser beings to prosper from our benevolence. Naturally, we expect that they would not have the audacity to protest about our presence in their nation.

All of this means that the loud cries to stop foreign investment in any Australian business are sanctimonious hogwash. The reality is…. Continue reading “Is it a sin to sell the farm?”

Twiggy Forrest

The latest saga to annoy us while we try to eat our poached eggs at breakfast is the revelation of a taxation deal that Twiggy almost made with Kevin Rudd in the dying hours of the Rudd era. For a number of reasons, we can give thanks that it did not come into being, but I can assure you that his proposal would not have been implemented even if Rudd had survived.

Forrest should be comforted by the fact that many of us had exciting conversations with Rudd about revolutionary projects that were promised to happen the following day, but were lost in the great hole that swallowed up the remnants of Rudd’s short attention span. Continue reading “Twiggy Forrest”

How Green was my Valley?

My headline has stolen the title of a great novel that I read back in my school days. Written by Richard Llewellyn, it told the story of humble people who lived in a lovely valley in Wales where suddenly, out of nowhere, miners found lots of coal. Their quality of life descended into the depths as their landscape turned into an awful scene of squalor, grime, coal dust and unethical politics.

I was greatly moved by it and read it several times, particularly as my father was a lowly-paid manual labourer in a timber mill, located in an isolated bush community where the forests were slowly being decimated.

Now, more than 70 years later, I have a leading role in the building of a railway which will enable several new coal mines to open in the Surat Basin in Central Queensland in a much cleaner environment to Wales. This leads me to want to make a few objective comments about the emotion that surrounds the current mining boom in Australia. Continue reading “How Green was my Valley?”

Too much luck!

Paul Cleary is a senior writer with The Australian — one of their better ones. He is also a researcher with the Australian National University, and has written a very readable book called Too Much Luck, which is about the mining boom and its possible adverse impact on Australia’s future. He has set-out a very bleak forecast of the legacy of the boom.

Expressed as concisely and simply as I can, he believes that we are living in the dreamtime on the unsustainable financial benefits of mining royalties and taxes. Continue reading “Too much luck!”

Food Water and Minerals – why can’t we have them all?

The conscience of the nation has been stirred by the ever intensifying and increasingly bitter battle between farmers and miners and coal seam gas producers about land, water and the environment.

This newsletter has been constant in its efforts to remind governments that they are handling these issues quite badly — their main problem being that they have had it in the too hard basket for far too long in the forlorn hope that it will go away. It won’t. Significantly, and for no valid reason, current draft legislation lets gas producers off the hook. Continue reading “Food Water and Minerals – why can’t we have them all?”

Fair Contribution to Society from Miners

What constitutes a FAIR CONTRIBUTION TO SOCIETY from Miners?

The debate on the role and responsibility of mining companies in Australian is rapidly becoming a volatile one, with residents of the Southern Highlands of New South Wales and the City of Toowoomba in Queensland becoming quite militant as miners attempt to encroach on their residential territory, while farmers in the Gunnedah region of NSW, Margaret River in WA and the Darling Downs in Queensland become even more aggressive in defence of their land.

On the other hand, the mining tax, first mooted over a year ago, is still not a reality as small miners, and some large ones like Fortescue, rebel against the deal that the Federal Government made with BHP, Rio Tinto and Xstrata last year. Continue reading “Fair Contribution to Society from Miners”

Farmers V Miners – The battle gets serious.

The New South Wales and Queensland Governments are planning to implement and/or change legislation to protect strategic cropping land from encroachment by mining and gas ventures.

This has been made inevitable by the high profile of the issue in the recent New South Wales election, particularly in the electorates in the Hunter Valley. Similarly, the farmers of Queensland have been highly militant on the issue with a State election looming, while in Western Australia there has been a very lively battle going on about mining getting underway in the wine country of Margaret River close to a couple of my favourite vineyards. Continue reading “Farmers V Miners – The battle gets serious.”

The Wandoan Project

On the issue of clean coal, we should all take a look at a new power station that will be built at Wandoan in Central Queensland.

It is called the Wandoan Consortium, and is a joint venture between the Stanwell Corporation (a power generation company owned by the Queensland Government) and GE Energy (a subsidiary of General Electric based in the United States).

They are recognised by the Federal Government’s Clean Energy Initiative and are working in partnership with Xstrata Coal, who are well on the way to opening at Wandoan the largest thermal coal mine in the Southern Hemisphere. Continue reading “The Wandoan Project”

Going Nuclear

The Anti-Nuclear people have had a field day of ranting and raving about the nuclear problems that Japan is battling. They are absolutely delighted that Japan’s tsunami gave them a new platform to parade their delusions.

Their hypocrisy has driven me further into the realm of nuclear believers. Most of the critics are people who spend all day worrying about what might kill them, instead of enjoying life to the full. Death is going to get us all one day, so let us all relax and let it happen. Continue reading “Going Nuclear”