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Weaponizing Coal: Australia Gives Ukraine a Gift

Few would forget the antics of Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison who, as Treasurer, entered Parliament with a lump of coal and proceeded to praise it with the enthusiasm of a fetish worshipper. “Don’t be afraid,” he told fellow parliamentarians. “Don’t be scared.”

He has, with deep reluctance, conceded that climate change is taking place and, with even deeper reluctance, that human agency might be involved. But under his leadership, the fossil fuel lobby of Australia has no reason to fear. Denialism has simply become more covert.

This month, Industry Minister Angus Taylor, the government’s premier ignoramus on climate change, promised AU$50.3 million to fossil fuel entities to guarantee Australia against “the devastating impacts of a gas supply shortfall, as seen recently in Europe.” His government was “accelerating priority gas infrastructure projects that will protect Australia from potential energy shortages, keep pressure on prices and create jobs in regional Australia as part of our plan for a stronger future.”

Indeed, the lobby has every reason to be delighted with that other recent announcement by Morrison to enlist Australian coal in Ukraine’s war effort. With a shamelessness only he can muster, the Prime Minister has managed to make digging and exporting coal, even in small amounts at great cost, virtuous. In an official statement, Morrison claimed that, “in response to a direct request from Ukraine, Australia will donate 70,000 tonnes of thermal coal. This will help Ukraine’s power generators operating and supplying electricity to the power grid at this critical time.”

Little by way of logistical or pricing detail was given. We know who benefits the most from this. A triumphalist Whitehaven Coal will supply it, and the cost to the Australian taxpayer will be in the order of AU$31 million. Given that Whitehaven Coal has been a Liberal Party donor – AU$98,000 has been given over the last five years – the whiff of something rotten in the land of coal is strong.

The company’s board would have been delighted by the recent spike in its share prices. It also remains unclear whether the company offered a discount on the coal to the government. One thing is beyond doubt: Canberra is offering to foot the transport bill.

The coal, according to the Prime Minister, was needed “before the end of May and we have arranged the shipping for that to take place and are working with other countries to ensure it can get to Ukraine.” With beaming delight, Morrison could say that “it’s our coal. We dug it up. We’ve arranged the ship. We’ve put it on the ship and we’re sending it there to Ukraine to help power up their resistance and to give that encouragement.”

Richard Denniss, an economist based at the Australia Institute, is doubtful about the whole operation. “Sending a ship load of coal to Ukraine via Poland is just conservative virtue signalling.” If anything, the measure was insensible, given that Poland itself had “lots of coal. If we really thought Ukraine needed coal (I doubt it) we could just give them some money to buy Polish coal.”

The request is also slightly odd given that it was conveyed to Canberra from Poland itself. “It was made to me,” claimed Morrison, “through the Polish Prime Minister and we’re very pleased to be able to meet that need.”

The amount of thermal coal is also raising eyebrows amongst those not inclined towards astrological numbers and fantasy projections. Australia is sending a mere 10th of Ukraine thermal coal reserves, described by Resources Minister Keith Pitt as making “a real difference for the people of Ukraine by providing continued energy security, ensuring continued electricity supply to homes and industry.” With little justification, Morrison is also making the claim that a million Ukrainian homes will be powered, though left the duration of that effort in doubt.

The answer to such a crisis is not coal nor, in fact, fossil fuel exports masquerading as humanitarian rescue. Bernard Keane of Crikey makes a relevant observation: “the clear lesson of Putin’s aggression in energy terms is the need to get out of fossil fuels as quickly as possible, removing the volatility and strategic weakness that reliance on global commodities brings.”

Whether the coal will ever reach its intended recipients is a question worth asking. If the coal transits through Poland, it will have to be transported via rail to Ukraine, which raises issues of viable infrastructure. Sea access is also bound to be unlikely, and even if that is taken, one analyst pithily notes that a vessel “should be quite a sitting target if the Russians knew what it was and where it was coming from.”

The Morrison government has made a habit of celebrating the announcement rather than the execution of detail. Mendacity and incompetence are twinned in this government’s insignia, and Ukrainian officials best ready themselves for disappointment.


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  1. Fred

    It takes about two months to ship coal from NSW to Poland. Should get there just in time for summer. On ya ScoMo, another “fully and carefully thought out” initiative.

  2. GL


    It’s just Scummo the tiny yappy Chihuahua trying desperately to prove he is a biigg tough dog. The world’s village idiot at work again.

  3. Phil Pryor

    Because of malodorous, defective, egocentric, loudmouthed, suppurating turds like Morrison, a name that will live in infamy, derision, hatred, disgust and disbelief, we have a situation where people are killed, ruined, dispossessed, betrayed by executive ordergiving. Morrison joins the biggies, the bumptious huge egos of executive power in government, agencies, corporations, who make plans, give decisions, declare, plot, decide. So, honest ordinary, disconected people are the victims of supershitheads, no longer the adolf and josef types, but now, the Howard, Blair, Bush, Obama, Trump, Cameron, Johnson, Abbott to Morrison types, the executive, ordergiving, plotting, doctinaire MURDERERS. Is this JUST??

  4. Canguro

    Phil Pryor, no, it’s not just, but you know that, your questions is rhetorical; the injustices meted out by the likes of your examples along with others – the notorious throughout the ages – are always poorly hidden behind a facade of good, necessity, doing the right thing by whatever metric; economic, political, fighting the good fight, upholding the faith, defending against barbarism, good vs. evil… the never-ending fluidity of language when employed by those in a position to wield power has always been an extraordinary licence to screw those who are unable to defend themselves against this sort of egregious abuse.

    You cite Obama among your examples – he of the golden voice and eloquent turn of phrase – yet he was as craven and impotent as a force for good as his predecessor, entirely without compunction when it came to authorising the raining down of bombs on the innocent and the continuation of the American obsession with gifting misery and suffering on the poorer quarters of the planet in pursuit of dollar profits for stateside corporations.

    The same with Blair, another silver-tongued murderer, complicit in promoting the idiot Bush’s war-mongering.

    But these criminal types are not new to mankind, nor were the Josephs and Adolphs; mankind has had to deal with impact of the criminal psychopathy amid myriad millennia; ergo, it’s inescapable that there’s something seriously amiss within the psyche of humanity, and just as scum floats to the surface so do these maleficent types – not atypical – recall the Stanford Uni prison experiment – demons and devils lurking withing us all and willing to act if unleashed, as revealed by so many deep observers of the human condition; the Freuds & Jungs, the Dostoevskis & Solzhenitsyns, the Bubers, Kierkegaards, Nietzsches, Sartres, Arendts and more, along with the Christs and the Buddhas… all of them great observers and teachers, all of them clear-eyed with regard to the precarious elements and risks of being sentient within human form.

    I agree with you; it sucks, big time. But we shouldn’t kid ourselves that it’s an aberration. As for the solution? I suggest there isn’t one. Malicious ignorance, maleficence, criminality, hideousness, murderousness etc. are an inevitable artefact of unconsciousness, and until that condition of psychological sleep is eliminated and banished from its role as a deeply-ingrained functional element of the human experience we will continue to suffer at the hands of those whose driven goals and purpose is to empower themselves at the expense of others.

  5. New England Cocky

    ”Mendacity and incompetence are twinned in this government’s insignia, …” says it all really.

    @GL: Deputy Dawg does it again … putting his mouth hard up against the anus of the American best interests all at the expense of Australian taxpayers. Bring on the 2022 feral elections!!

    @ Canguro: A nice reply to PP’s accurately articulated agony.

  6. leefe

    We’ll be shipping sand to the Sahara next. As Dr Kampmark said, Poland has plenty of coal. It would be far more efficient to purchase theirs if this was really about helping the Ukraine.

  7. Harry Lime

    Scotty the talking anus, in his fevered imagination can see himself pulling off another ‘miracle’ with his brilliant knee jerk reactions to whatever he perceives to be an advantage to him,no matter how disconnected from reality it might be.Our dear leader has reached the terminal desperation stage,and things are likely to unravel further as he becomes ever more unhinged.I see a secure facility for the mentally deranged in his future.

  8. TuffGuy

    As mentioned above the biggest question in this is “will the coal actually get to Ukraine?” We have had the big announcement right before the one about the election. We have seen they went directly to Whitehaven, thus bypassing/rejecting most other coal mining companies. No doubt the government will pass all the money directly to Whitehaven (for the coal and transport) and we will most likely never hear about any ships full of coal departing our shores. They have done this before, slipping large sums to donor friends. $40 million slipped into rupert’s pockets, another $40 million slipped into brian houston’s pockets, $440 million slipped to the GBRF staffed by (at the time) 7 es fossil fuel CEOs, many billions slipped to that company working out of a little beach shack on kangaroo island (not only with just $7 in their bank account but also zero experience in providing garrison services overseas or anywhere).
    So yeah, this money will just disappear into the ether of Whitehaven bank accounts

  9. John OCallaghan

    As usual the corrupt yankee boot lickin media scum in this country are running true to form and not questioning this mass moron Morrison for this latest display of sheer idiocy and opportunistic psycho babble. Lets hope Rip Van Albanese and his band of nodding Neddies and Nellies wake up and start at least to look as though they are attempting to hold this so called government to account……. This government has without doubt been the most corrupt incompetent criminal government in Australian history, and even allowing for our corrupt biased media favouring this mob, any opposition, worth their Saxa would have torn these psychopaths to shreds years ago. I hope they become a much better government than opposition ,otherwise we are all headed for the knackery!

  10. New England Cocky

    @Tuff Guy: Now, now TG ….. Whitehaven Coal enticed the former Nazional$ leader Mark Vaile to abandon politics for the better remuneration of the mining industry, so it is very unfair of you to think that the money paid for Whitehaven Coal to Ukraine would be surreptitiously vanished to re-appear in part as a ”political donation” aka ”political bribe” to the Liarbral Party.

    Just remember there are bigger scandals in politics than Whitehaven Coal benefitting from Scummo’s largess, like the $500 MILLION extension of the Northern Inland Railway (NIR) to the Gladstone CSG export port, after passing within about 20km of Beetrooter’s two ”grazing” (CSG??) properties in the Pilliga Scrub.

    Or, the fact that the NIR own business case notes that the NIR will take at least 50 years to repay the initial capital investment from taxpayer funds for the cost that has exploded out to about $14 BILLION.

    Pity that the proposed double stacked 40 foot containers are too heavy for the soils that the track is proposed to pass over when dry (and totally impassable black soils when wet).

    How much for a Nazional$ ”White Elephant”?? Thank you John Anderson and Beetrooter.

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