Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce says protesters have disrupted $60 million worth of coal exports in the past week, calling for action to end.

Key points:

  • Coal trains have experienced disruptions entering the Port of Newcastle for eight days
  • Sixteen environmental activists have stage various protests including laying on train tracks
  • Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce says each coal train is worth $1million in exports

Activists have staged the 10th day of protests in the NSW Hunter region, stopping coal-laden trains from entering the world’s largest coal terminal, the Port of Newcastle.

Seventeen people have been arrested, including two on Monday, over similar protests, which has led to NSW Police establishing Strike Force Tuohy.

Emily, 24, lay on a railway track for about half an hour before police arrested her.

“I am the 16th person to put my life on the line, to get in the way in a targeted disruption of the world’s biggest coal port,” she said.

“We are living in catastrophic climate collapse. So, I’m here, lying on a railway track. My arm is deep inside a pipe.”

“I’m referring to the collapse of our life support systems, and that’s a fear I live through every single day.

“If you think that my actions are extreme, if you think that this is crazy or too radical, then I don’t think you’re paying attention.”

NSW Police have formed Strike Force Tuohy to target the ongoing protests, and security and surveillance have been increased along the rail corridor.

“This government will not tolerate protesters undermining commuter activities and causing significant damage to these local industries which employ people from across the region,” NSW Police and Emergency Services Minister David Elliott said.

a man in a large bush cap  speaks at Singleton railway station

Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce says each coal train bound for the Port of Newcastle is worth $1million in exports.(ABC Upper Hunter: Jake Lapham )

‘We’ve got to make a buck’

Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce asked protesters for the alternative.

“If they’ve got other ways that this nation can earn money right now, then we’re all ears,” he said. 

“In the meantime, we’ve got to make a buck.”

On a visit to the Singleton train station, Mr Joyce described a passing coal train as “our nation earning money”.

“It’s about $100,000 in royalties, so what you’ve got here is payments for your NDIS, payments for your pharmaceutical benefits scheme, payments for pensions and unemployment benefit,” he said.

“These people who decide to close all that down — I don’t know, they mustn’t be at work — so some of the social security that they’re living off has been paid for by that.”

“They’ve already stopped $60 million of our exports. 

“Not only that, but they’ve got the grain trains backed up. [They] can’t get in because some lady wants to sit in a scaffold over the railway line or some other person wants to park a car on a railway line.”

Protesters stop wagons

Activists stopped coal-laden trains from entering the world’s largest coal terminal, the Port of Newcastle.(Supplied: Blockade Australia )

‘We haven’t got a replacement’

The COP-26 climate summit’s final communiqué requested all nations “revise and strengthen” their medium-term targets next year.

The UN climate talks ended on the weekend with a deal targeting fossil fuels, but India and China succeeded in watering down the language from “phase out” to “phase down.”

Mr Joyce said he had “no interest” in revisiting a 2030 target, as he and Prime Minister Scott Morrison continue to spruik the future of coal.

He said it was “total naivety” to think coal buyer countries wouldn’t buy it elsewhere if Australia was to transition away.

“We haven’t got a replacement to maintain your standard of living if that is lost.”

Posted , updated 

Trains into world’s largest coal terminal at Newcastle disrupted for 10 days, 17 arrested
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