The proponent of a new coal-fired power station in central Queensland has told the Morrison government his company should be exempt from complying with the Paris Agreement because traditional Aboriginal owners that control the business never agreed to the international climate pact.
Leaked emails from Shine Energy chief executive Ashley Dodd reveal him informing the government that his company was controlled by people from the Birri nation that “rejects the Paris Climate Agreement”.
Mr Dodd, whose company is controlled by the Birriah traditional owners, is applying for a $4m government grant for a feasibility study in a high-energy, low- emission (HELE) coal-fired power station in the central Queensland town of Collinsville.
“We as a sovereign people and nation have never been consulted by the parties involved in the Paris Climate Agreement,” Mr Dodd wrote in an email to the office of Energy Minister Angus Taylor.
“Therefore Shine Energy as a Birriah traditional owner company of the Birriah nation is not subject and/or obligated to comply with this agreement.
“And to any counter argument that we are subject and/or obligated to comply with the Paris Climate Agreement, then the onus of proof must be brought forward by the parties which argue that Shine Energy must comply with the Paris Climate Agreement.”
The federal government promised to fund the study in the 2019 election campaign, contributing to the Prime Minister’s electoral success in regional Queensland. The plan was heavily backed by state Nationals MPs but opposed by city-based state Liberals.
The Australian revealed on Thursday that the project had been thrown into turmoil after leaked emails showed Mr Dodd accusing the Morrison government of trying to force him out of the business and delaying its development. He accused the government of trying to “white clad” his company by removing him and using an “Anglo-Saxon as a company figurehead” — without links to the traditional Birri owners — to champion the project.
Mr Dodd said he had been pressured to leave Shine Energy by a member of the Morrison government’s ministry, whom he claimed was acting on behalf of Mr Taylor.
A spokesman for Mr Taylor has denied Mr Dodd’s claim, declaring that at “no stage” did the minister or his office suggest to Shine Energy or “anyone else” that the company needed a new chief executive.
Opposition northern Australia spokesman Murray Watt said the coal plant was “always just a hoax to buy votes in central Queensland”. “The government pretended to back it, to win seats in central Queensland, and now even they are baulking at it,” Senator Watt said. “That’s no surprise when the company itself says it would need a … taxpayer subsidy, which could cost up to $17bn.”
Nationals MP Barnaby Joyce said a coal-fired power station was needed in central Queensland.