THE re-elected Coalition government has thrown its weight behind the NSW and Queensland coal industries by having the Productivity Commission carry out a year-long review of mining approvals aimed at "streamlining" the process.
The announcement was made by Resources Minister Matt Canavan at the NSW Minerals Council's annual flagship conference at the Crowne Plaza Hunter Valley.
More than 500 people are attending the sold-out conference and a number of delegates Australian Community Media spoke with said it was the strongest endorsement the industry had received for a long time.
The standing-room-only audience broke into sustained applause when Mr Canavan announced the Productivity Commission review but environmental groups were quick to criticise it.
Greenpeace said the regulatory system already "shamelessly" favoured mining companies and the government was trying to strip even more environmental protections from an already broken system.
Lock The Gate agreed a review was needed but said the focus should be on protecting communities not helping mining companies, as the government was trying to do.
NSW Minerals Council chief executive Steve Galilee welcomed the review, saying the government was listening to the industry.
"In NSW planning time frames are increasing," Mr Galilee said.
"The NSW government has set itself a target of an average assessment time frame of 500 days for major mining projects, however, some assessments are taking a thousand days or more."
Despite the wide-ranging nature of his 2000-plus word speech, Mr Canavan made no mention of climate change or global warming and defended that position when questioned afterwards.
He said he preferred the "cogent comments" of the International Energy Agency, which predicted growth in thermal coal to at least 2040 and which was urging the power industry to "get serious about carbon capture and storage" as a way of reducing emissions.
He said "we should be listening to those making sensible comments" about the billions of people around the world who wanted access to the same affordable that "we all enjoy here in the Western world.
Although the review was the centrepiece of his speech, Mr Canavan ranged across various hot-button issues for the coal industry.
He applauded Hunter MP Joel Fitzgibbon for co-chairing the newly formed Parliamentary Friends of Coal Exports group, saying Mr Fitzgibbon's job was "not made easier by Labor politicians, despite the [election] result saying rubbish things about the sector".
He said calls from Newcastle MP Sharon Claydon and others for a "just transition out of coal" amounted to "surrender tactics" and the Coalition was not going "wave the white flag for our coal industry".
Mr Canavan said the hold-up of Hunter thermal coal in Chinese ports was a "challenging development" but said the best responese as to diversify into other markets, which was why Australia should target India as an export destination.
He said India's thermal coal imports had grown by 30 per cent in four years to reach 160 million tonnes - compared with Australia's exports of 250 million tonnes a year of thermal coal - yet Australia had only 5 per cent of the market.
He said the Queensland government's move to rapidly approve Adani's Carmichael mine straight after the federal election showed it was politics and not environmental concerns that had been delaying the project.
He said Adani was a massive influence on the election outcome, with research showing the closer a polling booth was to the mine, the greater the swing in Queensland to the Liberal National Party.
Mr Canavan dismissed claims that opening the Galilee Basin would compromise the Hunter industry, calling it "particularly narrow world view" when the idea was to grow the market to access international customers who wanted to "pay a lot of money to access reliable resources".
Taking questions after his speech, Mr Canavan slammed inaccurate reporting that repeatedly described Adani as "next to the Great Barrier Reef" when it was more than 300 kilometres inland, and much farther away from the coast than the existing Bowen Basin mines.
Mr Canavan said he had no doubt that the pro-mining vote helped the Coalition to victory and it showed what everyday Australians were saying, and not just what the ABC was broadcasting.
He said the coal industry was here to say, regardless of what its critics said.
"I think it will get bigger and better in the years to come, and the way the everyday coal workers responded at the election has helped secure that," Mr Canavan said.