NZ’s subsidies of coal and rail are nothing like Australia’s

Gerry Brownlee

Australian state governments spent A$17.6 billion on subsidies for mineral and fossil fuel industries over six years, including A$8 billion to help transport coal, according to a report.

The Australia Institute says it's the first time state subsidies have been added up and they are on top of Federal subsidies, estimated at A$4.5 billion in 2013.

The report reveals the extent of Australian state government support for rail infrastructure for mining companies at a time when New Zealand is rebuilding its rail network and bailing out state-owned coal miner Solid Energy, a major rail user.

Transport Minister Gerry Brownlee recently told parliament the government has poured billions of dollars into KiwiRail after the previous Labour-led government bought back a lemon.

"Sometimes it's hard to kick life into something that's fundamentally dead," he said.

The Australia Institute calculates Queensland has kicked more than A$7.6 billion into coal transport and concessions over six years.

Queensland's expenditure on mineral and fossil fuel industries in 2013-14 is similar to the amount spent on disability services and capital expenditure on hospitals.

The Queensland government spent A$831 million on the Goonyella-Abbot Point Expansion, mainly between 2010 and 2012. The project, located in central Queensland's Bowen Basin is often referred to as the missing link project, as it connected two coal railway systems. It enables coal mines that were previously only able to ship coal out of Hay Point, near Mackay, to rail coal to Abbot Point near Bowen.

The report also says those hailing rail privatisations in Australia as a successes haven't always counted the subsidies put into the companies before they were sold.


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