19 March 2009

Turnbull's a pouncy high school debater and XSTRATA are hardarses

~ They deserve the karma of being angry at each other.

XSTRATA executives are angry over the federal Opposition's decision to reveal that the global mining giant has threatened to fire 1000 coal miners if emissions trading is implemented.

Two sources in the coal industry have told Fairfax Media that Xstrata executives did not give permission for the data to be released publicly, saying it is market-sensitive information given in confidence.

Neither Xstrata nor Opposition Leader Malcolm Turnbull's office would comment directly on the issue yesterday.

In Monday's question time in Federal Parliament, Mr Turnbull asked Prime Minister Kevin Rudd about a presentation Xstrata made that claimed it would fire 1000 people, close four mines and stop $7 billion in investment creating 4000 jobs if the Government's trading scheme was implemented.

Xstrata has found a backer in Premier Anna Bligh, who yesterday expressed support for a coal industry campaign to win further concessions under the Government's trading scheme.

But a former industry lobbyist and Liberal Party insider has dismissed Xstrata's claims and said it appeared the company was preparing to blame the Government for job losses caused by a recent huge drop in demand and the plummeting coal price.

Guy Pearse, a consultant who left the Howard government to write an expose of its environment policy, said the proposed emissions trading scheme would have barely any impact on Xstrata.

"Eighty per cent of our coal is sent offshore and the emissions count offshore, not in Australia, so they have almost no carbon liability to worry about," Dr Pearse said.

"It probably helps Xstrata to be able to pin job losses on the Government rather than say they have misread the economic environment and are having to mothball some projects that are no longer viable."

Xstrata's coal operations do not qualify for free permits under the Government's proposal. But Dr Pearse said the only emissions Xstrata had to worry about were methane released in the mining process.

"In the scheme of things, it would be tiny," he said.

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