Sunday, April 30, 2017

Mark Butler endorses Westpac's policy assessment that excludes Adani Project while ALP policy remains mute on export coal



Shadow minister for Energy and Climate Mark Butler was on ABC Insiders program on Sunday and was critical of the Government criticising Westpac over a business policy decision, when the Government has refused to implement a Banking Royal Commission to look at financial practices that hurt lots of ordinary Australians and small businesses.

It was a very competent interview and attack on the Government, while adroitly not answering the question of opposing the mine if Adani does manage to get the financial investment required sorted. (19 international banks have now ruled out financing the mine)

All Butler's points were valid and important facts: that the demand for thermal coal imports from Australia is in decline, that the Adani project would hurt coal jobs in both Queensland and New South Wales, and that the economics of the mine simply don't stack up.

Then there is the climate risk which Butler did not emphasise but is at the heart of Westpac Bank's business climate policy and future investments in coal.

I don't fully agree with Westpac's policy, but it is a nuanced approach to supporting only new investment in metallurgical coal or high quality Newcastle benchmark thermal coal from existing basins. The Adani coal from the Carmichael mine fails the energy benchmark, and has a high ash content. It is a low to medium quality thermal coal.

I read the ALP's climate policy it took to the last election in 2016. It was a positive policy overall, but one of it's huge failings was the silence on coal and fossil fuel export, particularly the low grade Adani coal in the Galilee Basin, unconventional gas, and offshore oil exploration in the Great Australian Bight.

The ALP are happy to play both sides of the coal equation and leave the outcome as a commercial decision as they think this resolves them from responsibility of good policy.

It may be good politics, but it is bad policy when the science says we need to keep 95 percent of Australia's coal unexploited.

The fact is Westpac's climate business policy (PDF) on export coal is now more aligned to the Paris Agreement climate targets, and superior to both the Government and opposition parties policies on export coal.

That is a sad state of affairs. Here are the interview snippets from Insiders between Barry Cassidy and Mark Butler.