Thursday, June 13, 2019

Today by Paddy Manning

Adani approved
Australia’s governments can’t cope with climate change

Adani Mining CEO Lucas Dow. AAP Image/Dan Peled

The Queensland government’s final approval for Adani’s Carmichael coalmine this afternoon is an act of climate vandalism that represents everything that has gone wrong with politics in Australia. In 2019, when responsible governments around the world are facing up to the climate emergency, Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk has panicked at the federal election result and, barely even pretending to look impartial, delivered Adani an approval that is bound to be challenged in court and, ultimately, on the ground. Whether the Carmichael mine proceeds or not remains to be seen – there are still many regulatory and commercial hurdles.

But even the beginning of construction work won’t mark the end of this saga, because the stakes are too high. Queensland Resources Council chief Ian Macfarlane, a former Coalition energy minister, spelled it out yesterday: if Carmichael goes ahead, establishing a rail line to the Galilee Basin, it will increase the likelihood of another six more mines in the region. That’s billions of tonnes more coal getting burned, generating greenhouse gas emissions that our oceans and atmosphere can no longer handle. Lemmings couldn’t come up with a worse decision.

Announcing the approval, Queensland Environment Minister Leeanne Enoch told parliament today: “Our state has some of the most rigorous environmental protections in the country and we do not apologise for that.” The truth is, although it’s taken nine years, politicians and regulators have failed to do their jobs at every step – and there has never been a requirement to consider the full climate impact of the project.

Today’s approval, along with the approval of management plans for the black-throated finch a fortnight ago, is only the latest bendover tactic from our elected representatives. There’s the federal environment department’s admission [$] in the Federal Court late yesterday that it had not considered all of the 2200 public submissions (some of which it had since lost) on Adani’s plans to build a 110-kilometre pipeline to the Suttor River to access up to 12.5 billion litres of floodwater a year, gifting a court win to the Australian Conservation Foundation. There’s the rushed pre-election approval of the groundwater management plan by former environment minister Melissa Price, which the Queensland environment minister herself said smacked of “political interference”, and which we subsequently learnt was highly conditional. Even The Australian today admits [$] that “questions rightly persist over the hurry up that was evidently issued to the Canberra bureaucracy”. Former environment minister Greg Hunt’s initial 2014 approval for the Carmichael mine was overturned by the Federal Court in 2015 because he failed to consider the impact on two threatened species – which was, literally, his job. Luckily for Adani, the same court found in favour of the minister a year later, ruling that Hunt was entitled to find any assessment of resulting carbon pollution on the Great Barrier Reef was “speculative”.

Greenpeace chief David Ritter tweeted a thread outlining how the approval “shows that the whole system is rigged and broken”. He wrote: “This is not about any specific allegation of corruption, but the rules of the whole system being unfit for purpose.” Even assuming it stands, today’s approval does not mark the end of the legal and commercial hurdles for the Carmichael project, even if it allows Adani to start clearing and break ground.

The Wangan and Jagalingou Family Council, representing traditional owners, still has a legal challenge in the courts. Mine opponents say that Adani doesn’t have a royalty deal or a contractor to build the mine, can’t say who its insurer is, and has yet to negotiate access to Aurizon’s rail line or any of the leases for rail construction.

Condemnation was swift as you’d expect. Greens leader Richard Di Natale said in a statement today that the Adani fight was far from over: “The Greens stand with communities right across the country against this reckless decision by the Queensland Labor Government, which will contribute to the destruction of thousands more jobs in Queensland and across the country than it will ever create for the people of Central Queensland.”

What Australian governments should have done in response to global warming is: told the public the truth about the environmental and health risks; stopped subsidising and started regulating the activities causing the problems; and started planning for solutions and a transition path, including retraining and jobs for working people affected. But what Australian governments have actually done is: after 30 years, remained in denial about the environmental and health risks; smoothed regulatory hurdles for the companies causing the problem, while accepting their political donations and putting endless obstacles in the way of companies with solutions; and spent public money on uncommercial polluting technologies that make climate change worse.

“Today I met and had a long and frank discussion with John Setka. I told him it is in the best interests of the union movement that he resigns … If media reports are correct the allegations John is facing are serious. I also note that yesterday John said he would plead guilty to charges of harassing a woman using a carriage service. I have previously said that if these allegations are correct they are totally unacceptable. There is no place for perpetuators of domestic violence in leadership positions in our movement.”

Sally McManus in a statement after meeting with embattled Victorian CFMEU secretary John Setka.

“In what is potentially Australia’s biggest and most important infrastructure development, Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack has announced that he will take the ‘Bradfield Project’ out of its 81-year Canberra pigeonhole to help overcome the Murray–Darling mess and relieve pressure on the Great Barrier Reef … it is a national disgrace that it has been gathering dust for 81 years.”

The Australian columnist Robert Gottliebsen looks back to the future.

The likely cost per megawatt hour of electricity from a new high-efficiency, low-emissions coal-fired power station, according to Delta Electricity chief Greg Everett – well above the government’s target of $70/MWh.

“[The Bill would] allow the Federal Court to cancel the registration of an organisation on a range of grounds including corrupt conduct by officials, repeated breaches of a range of industrial and other laws by the organisation or its members and the taking of obstructive unprotected industrial action by a substantial number of members.”

From the explanatory memorandum to the Fair Work (Registered Organisations) Amendment (Ensuring Integrity) Bill 2017, after the Royal Commission into Trade Union Governance and Corruption, which the Coalition is vowing to bring back as a priority in the wake of the John Setka scandal.

The list

“Look up the lyrics to ‘DDU-DU DDU-DU’ and find there’s a line in the second verse that apparently translates from Korean as ‘Whatever you do, it’s like cutting water with a knife’. Consider the vividness of this simile and think about the ways in which it also serves to illustrate the futility of trying to remain ignorant to the triumphs of Kim Kardashian.”

“The study of pathological lying is thin, but full of sonorous descriptions. Experts use terms like ‘pseudologia fantastica’, ‘morbid lying’, ‘mythomania’ ... After a week in the wake of Nhial ‘Nelly’ Yoa, surely one of the most prolific and impressive fantasists of our era, I discovered a surprising sub-theme in my notes, an accidentally coined term of my own. I had begun to refer to the people most intimately deceived not as victims or witnesses or associates but as ‘participants’, as though Nelly Yoa was an event, instead of just a person.”

“Perhaps the most significant trial in Australia this century, The Queen v George Pell returned to court in Melbourne as the cardinal appealed his six-year jail sentence over the abuse of two choirboys in the 1990s. The case has absorbed the world and become a proxy for the ongoing tension between the traditions of criminal law – some arcane, some vital – and the mores and technologies of our time.”

Trade war now
As the trade war escalates between China and the United States, it's the US that has become the radical actor.

Paddy Manning

Paddy Manning is contributing editor (politics) at The Monthly and has worked for the ABC, Fairfax, Crikey and The Australian. He is also the author of three books, including a recently updated unauthorised biography of Malcolm Turnbull, Born To Rule?


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