Councils in Queensland mining towns have condemned calls by the Greens to halt new coal mines or coal seam gas activities.
Senator Milne, the Greens climate change spokeswoman, has called for a ban on new coal mines and extensions of existing mines. She wants Australia to focus on expensive renewable energy alternatives.
But the Tasmanian senator, who was elected with 67,016 votes, received a sharp rebuke from towns at the forefront of Queensland’s mining industry.
“A ban is certainly unacceptable,” Western Downs Mayor Ray Brown said. “I actually get more complaints about a wind farm proposal than I do about coal seam gas.”
Mr Brown, whose region is at the centre of the coal seam gas industry, warned that renewable energy would drive up electricity bills. He also called for smarter ways of using coal seam gas.
“Instead of exporting all our gas, why don’t we say that by 2017 all heavy vehicles run on gas?” he said.
18,000 new mining jobs at risk
About one in eight jobs in Queensland is directly or indirectly linked to mining, with coal seam developments expected to create more than 18,000 new jobs.
Queensland Premier Anna Bligh called the idea “radical and extreme”, saying that banning new coal mines would cause “a social and economic catastrophe” in her state.
She said the ban is far-fetched and would cost thousands of jobs.
“Of course, coal is a finite resource and we need to realistically plan and invest in other forms of energy, including gas and renewable (energy), as part of fueling our future,” Bligh told News Limited.
“We need to have a balance between this energy source and new energy sources.
“But a shut-down of the coal and gas industries would be a social and economic catastrophe for Queensland and Australia, costing thousands of jobs, halting investment and closing down whole communities.”
Isaac Mayor Cedric Marshall, from the coal-rich Bowen Basin, said a ban would have a huge impact on the shire.
“It’s fine to make statements like this but someone has to come up with an affordable alternative,” Cr Marshall said.