Chinese ban to put thousands of jobs at risk

NORTH Queensland stands to bear the brunt of an escalating trade war with China with thousands of jobs and a $20bn coal export industry at risk.

In a developing situation, China is said to have banned imports of Australian coal with much of those imports comprising coking coal mined in North Queensland.

CFMEU mining division Mackay district president Stephen Smyth said labour hire firms were already laying off workers from BHP-owned mines though he could not say that was directly related to the China ban.

"Clearly, the situation is concerning if all the reports are right, particularly for metallurgical coal and what that is worth to us and regional Queensland," Mr Smyth said.

Coal exports are already down about 20 per cent from the North Queensland ports of Abbot Point, Dalrymple Bay and Hay Point for the five months to November compared with the same period last year. That amounts to around a $4bn hit.

A spokesman for North Queensland Bulk Ports, which oversees the three ports, said while COVID-19 had impacted global demand, regional trade tensions were having a significant impact up and down the supply chain.

"The impacts are being seen in the trade throughput figures at our ports," the spokesman said.

North Queensland MP Bob Katter on Wednesday called on governments to immediately move the imports from China to other Asian countries including Vietnam, Indonesia and The Philippines.

"Tell 'em to go jump," Mr Katter said.

The CFMEU’s Stephen Smyth with state minister Anthony Lynham. Mr Smyth says more diplomacy is needed.
The CFMEU’s Stephen Smyth with state minister Anthony Lynham. Mr Smyth says more diplomacy is needed.

Mr Smyth said if it were that easy Australia would already be infiltrating those markets.

"I guess there's an opportunity for coal to be exported to some other countries but not on the level and demand that China took it." Mr Smyth said for the sake of his 10,000 members there needed to be more diplomacy and less chest beating.

State Resources Minister Scott Stewart said the Government was working with the Federal Government on ways to resolve the issues.

Mr Stewart said one way was making sure the state looked to other export markets in Asia while they were also looking at exports to Europe.

More than 70 vessels carrying about $640m worth of coal are moored off Chinese ports.

Originally published as Chinese ban to put thousands of NQ jobs at risk