Friday, May 24, 2019

Today by Paddy Manning

Adani repeater
Another deadline, another argument

Queensland premier Annastacia Palaszczuk may have had “a gutful” but her announcement of a timetable for the final approval of Adani’s Carmichael coalmine will only kick off another round of arguments about possibly the most controversial mining project this country has ever seen. Even if the Queensland government gives the final go-ahead, the CSIRO still has to sign off [$] on the latest version of the groundwater management plan, which is no small thing. The overt political pressure brought to bear on regulators over this project – unashamedly linked to the federal election timing – will surely give grounds for another legal challenge. The project still has to clear the biggest hurdle of all: the same economic and commercial realities that have mitigated against Galilee Basin coal for the last decade, and which saw a proposed mine neighbouring Adani’s venture abandoned this week.

As has been spelled out over the last couple of days by Bloomberg’s David Fickling, in a Twitter thread boiled down to an article here, the kind of low-quality coal that Adani wants to dig up at Carmichael is not profitable on any accepted measure, given finance and construction costs including raul, without enormous government subsidy.

The politics of Adani remain toxic because the science and the economics are toxic, and Saturday’s election changes none of that. Queenslanders, no matter how angry, can’t just vote climate change off the national agenda. The climate crisis demands that the Galilee – a whole new thermal coal province, as Palaszczuk crowed yesterday – does not open for mining. Even the the striking school kids know that.

Headlines announcing the imminent start of work at the Carmichael mine have been running on and off for years. Few believe them. Significantly, even the CFMMEU appears to be fracturing, with state secretary Michael Ravbar breaking ranks to criticise the premier yesterday, saying, “The promise of jobs and prosperity that was such a touchstone in the federal election is a myth, a fiction designed to hoodwink people into thinking Adani will be a good corporate citizen.”

The environment-versus-jobs debate can be solved nowhere more easily than in energy, where technology has turned downside into upside, unless you happen to own a coalmine. There are more jobs in the shift to renewables than in coal, as UNSW solar pioneer Martin Green told RN Breakfast this morning. There are abundant, white- and blue-collar jobs in climate solutions, and it may be time for the government to step up and start building where the private sector won’t, in the kind of win–win “Green New Deal” approach advocated by shadow environment minister Tony Burke yesterday. It will be interesting to see where this debate lands: on RN Breakfast this morning the Greens climate spokesperson Adam Bandt said Labor was in danger of “learning the wrong lessons” from the election.

There has been stiff debate this week about whether the Bob Brown Foundation’s Stop Adani convoy backfired, politically, helping the Greens virtue-signal but alienating everybody else. There is little doubt that the convoy – or, more particularly, The Courier-Mail’s coverage of the convoy – generated hostility in central Queensland.

My own friendly conversation with a couple of Clermont locals, who had “Start Adani” signs in their front yard, left me in no doubt that there was resentment of outsiders turning up to give them a lecture. But actually they reckoned that Clermont, 160 kilometres from the Carmichael site, would get bugger-all out of Adani’s mine – all the DIDOs would probably be based in Townsville, only an extra half-hour’s drive away.

The pro-Adani rally in Clermont that day was a culture war, fuelled by the Murdoch media and a lot of free beer that somebody paid for (Clive?). Whether the convoy alone drove the swings away from Labor seen across Queensland is debatable, but there is no doubt that votes for One Nation and the United Australia Party, which fed back to the LNP in preferences, were pro-coal. Both Pauline Hanson and Clive Palmer made sure they were in Clermont that day, along with Matt Canavan and Bob Katter. I bumped into Hanson on her way back through Belyando Crossing – she had a big “Pauline digs coal” sticker on her LandCruiser.

It’s not about class or culture wars, and it’s not about the rest of Australia versus “coal-addicted bogans” in Queensland – it’s about climate science. You can’t debate coal without talking about climate. If you don’t accept climate science, you’ll never agree a rapid transition is necessary – that it’s not some elitist imperative, it’s an emergency. Unfortunately, a hell of a lot of Queenslanders simply don’t believe it, and that’s the problem.

“On the face of it this indictment covers a lot of practices that are standard to investigative journalism: appealing for information, encouraging a source to provide documents that are not publicly available, reporting classified information you believe is in the public interest and the public has a right to know.”

Nick Miller, Europe correspondent for The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age, on the US charges against WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange.

“We still can’t be sure that one of more remarkable figures in postwar Australian politics, who managed the singular feat of bringing down two Labor ministers, has gone.”

The Australian Financial Review senior writer Andrew Clark.


The number of months before donations made to the political parties’ federal election campaigns are disclosed.

“The Australian government should be active not only in providing consular support to Mr Assange, who is an Australian citizen, but also outspoken in making representations to the British government against allowing Mr Assange to be extradited to the United States on charges that so obviously constitute a grave threat to press freedom.”

Centre Alliance senator Rex Patrick calls on the Australian government to defend one of its citizens today.

The list

“When former Reserve Bank economist and Adani consultant Jerome Fahrer was pressed on the question of jobs, he admitted the figure of 10,000 was ‘extreme and unrealistic’. Instead, Fahrer argued that, at the peak of construction, the project would employ approximately 2400 people, but because many of these jobs would come at the expense of those elsewhere, the number of jobs actually created would be considerably lower. Instead, Fahrer said that over the life of the project an average of 1464 full-time equivalent direct and indirect jobs would be created.”

“The music stops. Silence. ‘Not bad,’ says the stager. ‘Not bad for the first time.’ And the spell is broken ... I am quietly stunned that this is their first rehearsal. “It looks to me like they’ve been practising for weeks,” I murmur. Li’s eyes sparkle with pride and a little mischief. This is his family. This is where his heart lives.”

“For once, the cliché is true. What happened over the next ten months is stranger than fiction. With the release of the ‘Collateral Murder’ footage, WikiLeaks became instantly famous ... In early April 2010 hardly anyone had heard of Julian Assange. By December he was one of the most famous people on Earth, with very powerful enemies and very passionate friends.”

Paddy Manning

Paddy Manning is contributing editor (politics) at The Monthly and has worked for the ABC, Fairfax, Crikey and The Australian. He is the author of Inside the Greens and the unauthorised biography of Malcolm Turnbull, Born To Rule?


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