Coal Booster Ian Off Anna’s Xmas List

Annastacia Palaszczuk is keeping a list of who’s naughty or nice, and Queensland Resources Council’s Ian Macfarlane can expect a lump of coal in his stocking. He’d be completely fine with that.

Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk needs no introduction, but….

Who Is Ian Macfarlane?

The name may ring a bell. You might remember Mr. Macfarlane from roles including Liberal Shadow Minister for Energy and Resources (2008/2009 and 2010–2013) and Minister for Industry in the Abbott Government.

Some of Mr. Macfarlane’s time as Minister during the Abbott era was spent white-anting Australia’s Large-Scale Renewable Energy Target.

He retired from parliament in May 2016 and became Chief Executive of the Queensland Resources Council the same year. Among his other current activities, Mr. Macfarlane is a non-executive director of Woodside Petroleum.

What Is The Queensland Resources Council?

The Queensland Resources Council (QRC) is an industry association representing the commercial developers of Queensland’s minerals and energy resources. Those resources of course include coal.

Why Is Palaszczuk Pissed Off With Macfarlane?

The Queensland Premier was to attend a QRC hosted lunch on Wednesday, but a Queensland Resources Council campaign against coal royalty hikes in the state made her a bit cranky. And the QRC isn’t mucking about.

Premier Palaszczuk reportedly stated:

“I am extremely disappointed in Ian Macfarlane and his attacks on the government…. If [resources] companies are making $40 million to go into a campaign, that money can be very well spent in the lead-up to Christmas helping Queenslanders.”

Premier Palaszczuk didn’t attend the lunch, nor did any of her ministers. Late Wednesday afternoon, Queensland Labor commented:

“The Queensland Resources Council is mounting a $40 million campaign against our Premier all because they don’t want billionaire multinationals to pay their fair share BACK to Queenslanders… Our Palaszczuk Labor Government will get every cent owed to the people of our state to build the hospitals, schools, and roads our regional communities need. “

What’s This About A Coal Royalty Increase?

Coal royalty rates in Queensland hadn’t changed in a decade, but back in June this year increases were flagged in the State’s budget. The highest marginal royalty rate was previously 15 per cent, payable on the component of the average price per tonne exceeding A$150. Several more tiers were introduced from July 2022:

  • A rate of 20 per cent on that part of the average price per tonne more than A$175 but not more than A$225
  • 30 per cent on that part of the average price per tonne more than A$225 but not more than A$300
  • 40 per cent on that part of the average price per tonne more than A$300.

Reasoning:

“Coal royalties are designed to ensure all Queenslanders receive a fair and appropriate return on the state’s valuable and limited natural resources.”

Given the surge in coal prices last year and this year, the Palaszczuk Government believed the existing royalty structure wasn’t providing a fair return to Queenslanders during such periods. So, it’s not about taxing these companies more across the board, just paying more when they are making particularly good scratch. The increases have a bigger impact on generally pricier metallurgical coal (which QLD exports more of) than thermal. That needs some tweakery.

Unlike the “fuels” that power renewables such as wind and solar energy, once fossil fuels are burned, that’s it – they’re gone. But their negative effects will linger for a long time. With increasing costs from damage to our planet and human health caused by fossil fuels, the QLD government getting more cash when these companies are raking it in seems a pretty fair deal and others should be doing the same.

If boosted coal royalty rates discourage future investment in coal projects in Queensland, that’s perhaps not such a bad outcome all things considered. And it happens questionable.

Premier Palaszczuk has also previously offered a strategy that could soften any blow to the state in terms of new coal investment and jobs. The renewables-focused $62 billion Queensland Energy and Jobs Plan would also mean cheaper, cleaner and secure energy for Queenslanders says the Premier. But it’s not without its own challenges; including a significant contribution needed by the QLD Government.

Did Anna’s Snub Have Any Effect On The QRC?

In a word: nope!

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