Newman wants fast track on LNG jobs

September 12, 2013  Graham Lloyd, Environment editor – The Australian

THE Abbott government is being urged to fast-track approvals for billions of dollars worth of major resource developments to head off a looming jobs crunch as projects now under construction move to production.

The situation is most acute in Queensland, where thousands of jobs will be lost as the peak construction workforce at Gladstone’s three liquefied natural gas facilities falls away sharply from mid-next year.

Queensland Premier Campbell Newman said he had told Tony Abbott the federal government should “get out of the way”.

The Abbott government has promised to streamline environmental approvals and give decision-making powers on federal matters to the states.

Mr Newman’s Liberal National Party government gave environmental approval this week for Arrow Energy’s $15 billion proposed fourth LNG facility at Gladstone, setting a 30-day deadline for the commonwealth government to make a decision.

A decision is overdue on dredging and the dumping of dredge spoil in the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage area to expand the Abbot Point coal terminal.

Former environment minister Mark Butler twice extended the deadline to make a decision as new research from the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority showed that dredge spoil spread further and had a greater impact than earlier models had suggested.

Port expansion is critical for development of the Galilee Basin coal reserves, which Mr Newman said yesterday were the state’s highest priority. He told ABC radio that the incoming prime minister had called him on Monday to find out what the “blockers” were for the Queensland government.

“I said without any hesitation that we need to see the massive Galilee Basin coal projects approved as soon as possible, because they will see thousands of jobs created over the next few years and billions of dollars investment in the state,” he said.

Mr Newman said his message to Mr Abbott was “to get out of the way and let this government get on with taking the state forward economically”.

The push to approve projects comes as the world’s biggest miners have said they are winding back investment to avoid flooding the market for base metals and coal, further depressing prices.

Glencore announced on Tuesday that it had shelved its $7 billion Wandoan coal project in Queensland after cutting 2000 jobs and 45 per cent of head office staff of Xstrata, which has merged with Glencore.

The company said it would do what it could to prevent a glut of commodities. “We don’t want to create an oversupply in the market,” chief executive Ivan Glasenberg told investors yesterday.

Announcing state environmental approval for Arrow, Queensland State Development Minister Jeff Seeney said the three LNG plants being built on Curtis Island provided thousands of jobs during construction, with more than 7600 tradespeople out of a total of 10,148 workers.

Main contractor Bechtel Gladstone said more than 13,000 people had worked on the LNG projects since construction began in 2010.

Bechtel general manager Kevin Berg said the workforce was now close to its peak, at 9500, and that number would slowly demobilise from mid-next year as projects were completed. The Arrow project would employ a peak construction workforce of about 3500.

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