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After Election Defeat, Bruised Labor Party Embraces Coal

The Australian

New opposition resources spokesman Joel Fitzgibbon has promised any mining project that does not need taxpayer funding and meets strict environmental tests will be backed by Labor, as the party ­embraces coal after its defeat at the federal election.

The regional NSW MP was one of several Labor members, ­including new opposition Treasury spokes­man Jim Chalmers, to come out in support of the coal ­industry yesterday.

Mr Fitzgibbon, who added the resources portfolio to his agriculture portfolio in the shadow cabinet shake-up, also conceded that the Australian people had rejected a carbon price.

He said Labor needed to “consider other paths” to lower emissions after Tony Burke, the party’s former environment spokesman, suggested a Tony Abbott-style ­direct action model could work.

Labor is reeling from its election loss, which was felt keenly in Queensland coalmining seats.

Coalmining is one of the main industries in Mr Fitzgibbon’s seat of Hunter, which he has held on to despite suffering a swing against him of 14.21 per cent.

“The Labor Party has always had a policy to support the mining of coal and the export of coal. We will continue to have that policy,” Mr Fitzgibbon told The Australian.

“Any mining project, wherever it is, has to be able to stand on its own two feet without taxpayer subsidies, it must pass the most stringent environmental tests, but any project which can pass those two tests should have the support of the Australian Labor Party.”

Mr Chalmers, who holds the southeast Queensland seat of Rankin, yesterday said his vision for Australia’s economy included new thermal coalmines, as well as a transition to renewable energy.

“I’ve also pointed out, as a very proud Queenslander, that coal is an important part of our industrial base, it’s an important part of our export base, the money that we make from the rest of the world,” he said. “So when it comes to thermal coal, and when it comes to any particular mine or another, we do need to be conscious of that.

“That’s why, for example, when it came to Adani, we had what is ­effectively the same position as the government, which is that it ­needed to get over the environmental and commercial hurdles.”

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