A MINING industry leader has hit back at Member for Rockhampton Robert Schwarten’s claim coal companies have been “bludging off taxpayers”.
Queensland Resources Council boss Michael Roche said the government had reaped billions of dollars in royalties from mining companies, which were clearly paying their way.
Mr Roche said Mr Schwarten’s comment and a similar swipe from Premier Anna Bligh that taxpayers were subsidising the transport arrangements of the coal companies came from a government under pressure.
However an unapologetic Mr Schwarten yesterday stood by his comment and slammed Mr Roche for saying Central Queensland communities weren’t getting their share of the wealth.
“I find it remarkable that after 11 years in power, the State Government is conceding that it has effectively misled the electorate,” Mr Roche said.
“In the Parliament and in the media, both the Premier and Deputy Premier have in the recent past made it clear that that the coal industry pays for all infrastructures built on its behalf by government-owned corporations.
“These subsidy claims represent an extraordinary reaction to a request from the coal industry for the government to examine an alternative offer to buy the Central Queensland coal track network.
“Surely it is in the interests of Queensland taxpayers to have on the table an alternative offer from the coal industry, which may not only produce an attractive short-term return to the state but also deliver a superior long-term result in improving the performance of the export supply chain.
“The dividend for taxpayers from an efficient export supply chain is more coal royalties funding more hospital beds, more teachers and more police.”
Mr Schwarten, who made his bludging comment on the 4RO radio station, said the money to fund rail infrastructure to support the mines had been borrowed on the taxpayers’ account.
“The coal industry was established in Queensland around the rail industry,” Mr Schwarten said.
“The coal industry has not borrowed this money, it has been on our account.
“Every dollar that goes towards this is another dollar the government has to borrow for rail infrastructure and not money that could be going to schools and so on.”
He said with the government losing its triple-A credit rating its interest rate repayment had increased, furthering the burden on the taxpayer.
Mr Schwarten said of the $1.5 billion total royalties paid this financial year, infrastructure spending in the Fitzroy region was $2.6 billion.
“That’s before one teacher, one nurse or one disability service worker is paid in the region,” he said.