Coal exporters accused of falsifying data

Claims Australian coal exporters are falsifying data to claim their coal is cleaner will be examined by the federal government.

In a speech to parliament on Monday, independent MP Andrew Wilkie said a whistleblower leaked thousands of documents saying companies have been lying about coal quality for years.

"This fraud is environmental vandalism and makes all the talk of net-zero emissions by 2050 a fiction," the Tasmanian MP said.

"It could also be criminal, trashing corporate reputations as well as our national reputation.

"Coal companies operating in Australia are using fraudulent quality reports for their exports and paying bribes to representatives of their overseas customers to keep the whole scam secret."

Mr Wilkie said the alleged scam had allowed companies to claim for years that Australian coal was cleaner than it was in reality "in order to boost profits and to prevent rejection of shipments at their destinations".

Countries that received the coal with allegedly falsified data included Japan, South Korea, China and India.

Mr Wilkie used the speech to call on the government to launch a parliamentary inquiry into the issue to examine the claims.

Resources Minister Madeleine King said the reports were concerning and that the government would look into the claims.

"The Australian government is committed to maintaining Australia's reputation as a reliable and competitive supplier of high quality metallurgical and thermal coal," she sad.

"The government has requested briefings from ASIC and from the Department of Industry about this matter."

Mr Wilkie told parliament the whistleblower said the conduct included involvement from major companies such as TerraCom, Anglo American, Glencore, Peabody, ALS and Macquarie Bank.

"It is a mystery why everyone from the federal police, and ASIC, have not acted on this whistleblower's concerns - he is a senior coal executive," Mr Wilkie told reporters in Canberra.

"These are legitimate documents he has. It seems to be quite a failure of those organisations to do their job."

Should an inquiry not be set up into the issue, Mr Wilkie said the release of more documents showing the extent of the issue would be likely.

Calls for an inquiry were backed by other independent MPs.

Sophie Scamps said the whistleblower claims had shown the coal industry had been misleading the public for years,

"This information would not have come out if not for the courage of a coal industry whistleblower - this person should be protected under law and thanked by all Australians for their courage in bringing this information forward."

A spokeswoman for Anglo American said the allegations made by Mr Wilkie in parliament were entirely false.

"We take these matters very seriously and when issues surrounding testing were first reported by media in early 2020, we undertook an investigation which found no evidence that any of our cargoes had been impacted," the spokeswoman said.

"We have communicated with Mr Wilkie's office to ensure he has correct information."

A spokeswoman for Peabody said the company "strenuously denied" the claims made in parliament.

Mr Wilkie said the leaked documents were an example of the need to strengthen public interest disclosure laws to better protect whistleblowers.

The Australian Conservation Foundation supported calls for an inquiry.

Chief executive Kelly O'Shanassy said the reputation of the coal industry was in tatters.

"This should spell an end to Australian politicians - including prime minister Albanese - perpetuating the myth that Australian coal is somehow cleaner than coal from elsewhere," she said.

"This has potentially huge implications for the future of the coal industry in Australia."