Opposition defence spokesman Richard Marles said he did not think the Adani mine would go ahead because the global market for thermal coal was in decline.
Opposition defence spokesman Richard Marles said he did not think the Adani mine would go ahead because the global market for thermal coal was in decline.

What coal-bashing MP meant to say

THE federal Labor frontbencher who caused trouble by saying the collapse of global coal markets was a good thing has backed down.

Opposition defence spokesman Richard Marles said this morning said he did not think the controversial Adani megamine would go ahead because the global market for thermal coal was in decline.

In an interview on Sky News he said the decline was "a good thing" because it meant countries were taking action on climate change.

But this afternoon Mr Marles has issued a clarifying statement.

"I clearly didn't get anywhere near the point I was trying to make about the place of coal on Sky this morning. That's my fault," he said.

"Coal clearly has an important and enduring role to play, even as we transition to more renewables, and I should have made that clear."

He was widely quoted, including in transcripts, as saying "the global market for thermal coal has collapsed, and, wonderful, that's a good thing".

But it is understood he actually said "at one level" and not "wonderful", which The Courier-Mail accepts.

Prior to Mr Marles's backdown, Deputy Opposition Leader Tanya Plibersek accused Adani of promoting fake jobs.

Deputy Opposition Leader Tanya Plibersek has accused Adani of promoting fake jobs. Picture: Kym Smith
Deputy Opposition Leader Tanya Plibersek has accused Adani of promoting fake jobs. Picture: Kym Smith

Ms Plibersek said the company was overstating its ability to generate jobs, while Labor was planning to generate jobs in infrastructure, tourism, construction and agriculture.

"The evidence that we've seen so far are that the jobs claims of Adani are vastly overstated," she said.

"That is really important because that is real jobs, it is not the fake job promises that Adani keeps making and then letting us down on."

She said Labor's position on Adani was not guided by how its members felt about coal.

"It's not 'the vibe' of the thing," Ms Plibersek said.

"There is a simple economic fact that the world is moving away from coal-fired power generation, it's becoming increasingly expensive, we've recognised that global warming is a problem, we want to reduce our pollution, some countries are worried about the air quality in their cities.

"To fantasise about building new coal-fired power stations with taxpayers' money as some of the Liberals and Nationals are doing, is irresponsible."

Opposition defence spokesman Richard Marles said he did not think the Adani mine would go ahead because the global market for thermal coal was in decline.
Opposition defence spokesman Richard Marles said he did not think the Adani mine would go ahead because the global market for thermal coal was in decline.

Mr Marles told Sky News this morning: "The global market for thermal coal has collapsed, and, wonderful, that's a good thing, because what that implies is the world is acting in relation to climate change.

"What it means is that the economic case for opening up the Galilee Basin isn't what it was a decade ago."

Asked about what it meant for jobs and Labor candidates who supported the project he said there were other avenues for employment.

"Well there are lots of ways in which you can generate employment but what's the important statement here is that no public money is going to be spent on it, I think it's important that we operate in way that doesn't give rise to sovereign risk," he said.

Mr Marles went as far to say that he did not believe the project would go ahead without an injection of public money, which both Labor and the Government have ruled out.

"I think we know that without public money in this space it's unlikely to go ahead. That, I think, is the end of it," he said.

The Shadow Minister for Defence, Richard Marles MP. Picture: Shae Beplate.
The Shadow Minister for Defence, Richard Marles MP. Picture: Shae Beplate.

Resources Minister Matt Canavan said it was remarkable a senior Labor official was cheering the collapse of Australia's biggest export.

He said Mr Marles was "flat-out wrong" about the coal market collapsing, as prices were surging.

"Clearly they want to cheerlead the end of our coal industry," he said.

"If it were to end, thousands of people would lose their jobs. The Treasury would be back in the red before you knew it."

ABS international trade data shows the thermal coal market grew about $1 billion in the year to December 2018, up to $6.8 billion.



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