In a speech to parliament on Monday, independent MP Andrew Wilkie said a whistleblower had leaked thousands of documents saying companies had 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,” he 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.”
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”.
Among the countries that received the coal that had allegedly falsified data included Japan, South Korea, China and India.
Wilkie told parliament the whistleblower said the conduct included involvement from major companies such as TerraCom, Anglo American, Glencore, Peabody, ALS and Macquarie Bank.
The independent MP has called for a parliamentary inquiry into the issue, saying previous investigations failed to lead to action.
“So far, no authority has been willing to act on this alleged criminal behaviour, despite the fact that select evidence has already been presented in Australian courts, proving what this whistleblower says is true,” he said.
“Let’s … go straight into an inquiry so the industry can be held accountable for its sins and so Australia can restore its reputation as an honest trading partner.”
Wilkie said the leaked documents were also an example of the need to strengthen public interest disclosure laws to better protect whistleblowers.
Fellow crossbench MP Allegra Spender said there was a need for people to come clean about coal industry practices.
“Accounting for carbon emissions is critically important for our transition to net-zero,” she said on social media.
“We’ve seen serious questions about the carbon credit system and now evidence that coal miners have falsified records for years.”