Clean Air Queensland (CAQ) today told a Senate hearing at Toowoomba that Australia needed an overhaul of clean air laws to protect communities impacted by coal dust.
CAQ Coordinator Michael Kane addressed the Senate Select Committee hearing into Certain Aspects of Queensland Government Administration related to Commonwealth Government Affairs.
Mr Kane said industry and politicians knew that current Australian pollution standards were an inadequate regulatory tool to prevent serious impacts on community health.
“But because of the extra cost of adequate pollution mitigation like covering coal trains the industry finds it cheaper to commission inadequate government-sanctioned research or provide generous political donations to make the problem go away, as has been the case in Queensland in recent times,” he said.
Previous governments failed to be transparent in their regulatory process, he said.
“The Queensland coal industry, the Queensland Resources Council and the Queensland State Government are cooperating to apply a dangerously lax regulatory frame work for the massive expansion of the coal industry which potentially has widespread and severe health implications for the residents of many heavily populated centres, towns and rural communities.”
“The federal government should legislate that the Australian coal industry immediately implement best practice dust and pollution mitigation practices for the production, stockpiling and transport of coal particularly when situated close to established residences and population centres.
Currently the QLD coal industry is moving about nine million tonnes of uncovered coal by train through Oakey, Toowoomba, Ipswich and Brisbane on its way to the Port of Brisbane. Around 40,000 children go to school or day care within one kilometre of the south east Queensland coal corridor.
Mr Kane called for:
- A wide ranging royal commission into political donations in Queensland, particularly in relation to the approval of stage three Acland coal mine project.
- No federal government environmental approval processes or powers to be handed back to the QLD government.
- The upper house or a proportional voting system to be restored in Queensland.