Adani ramps up propaganda war, intimidation of activists

February 8, 2019
A stop Adani rally in Sydney in December. Photo: Zebedee Parkes

Adani has once again missed its own deadline for starting construction at its Carmichael coalmine in the Galilee Basin, but the coalmining giant is ramping up its propaganda war and intimidation of activists.

Adani is continuing to run advertisements and opinion pieces in newspapers, along with paying for huge billboards in Brisbane, all talking up the supposed jobs that the proposed mine will create.

But while Adani has announced that heavy construction equipment will be moved to the area and that it is engaging contractors, it will not be able to start construction unless it gets approval for its environmental management plan relating to the black-throated finch and a groundwater management plan.

Adani is also facing a legal challenge in the Federal Court by the Wangan and Jagalingou Traditional Owners Council (W&J TO), which is due to be heard in May.

In December, Adani sought a court order demanding that the W&J TO pay $161,000 to the court to cover potential costs and for the challenge to be dismissed if payment is not made.

Adani was seeking to bankrupt Adrian Burragubba, one of the five W&J TO challengers, over $600,000 in unpaid cost orders from previous challenges.

Justice Alan Robertson ruled against Adani, saying its demand was “disproportionate and unpersuasive”.

On February 5, the W&J TO criticised federal resources minister Matt Canavan for “running a protection racket for Adani while taking cheap shots at the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination”.

The United Nation’s Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination wrote to Australia’s UN ambassador last month to raise concerns that consultation on Adani’s Indigenous Land Use Agreement (ILUA) “might not have been conducted in good faith”.

It also said that the coalmine may violate Indigenous rights under an international convention against racial discrimination if it goes ahead. It gave Australia until April 8 to formally respond.

W&J TO said: “Canavan and Adani keep saying that Adrian Burragubba and the W&J Council don't speak for the Traditional Owners. One thing is absolutely certain ... Canavan and Adani don’t.

“Neither Canavan nor Adani would know land rights if they fell over them.

“We will persist with our petitioning of various UN bodies because the legislation and processes in Australia fall well short of international laws and standards to which Australia is a signatory.”

The Environmental Defenders Office Queensland (EDO Qld) criticised Adani’s latest management plan covering the black-throated finch on January 22.

It said Adani had backtracked in its commitments compared to previous proposals by cutting more than 2000 hectares from a core habitat area it is proposing to set aside for the critically-endangered species.

The fact that those hectares have been lost to a competing coalminer is another indication of the ongoing road blocks for the Adani coal project.

Given so much of the finch’s core habitat rests on mining tenures, one would hope that the Queensland government will publish its Bioregional Management Plan before it gives any further consideration to the Adani mine.

Adani is also attempting to strong-arm the Queensland government into approving its smaller-sized mine despite not having had its groundwater management plan approved.

On January 21, a state Department of Environment and Science (DES) spokesperson said that Adani’s groundwater management plan needs to be updated on advice from the CSIRO.

“DES continues to provide feedback to Adani to ensure that the [groundwater management plan] meets approval requirements, and will not continue to assess the [groundwater management plan] until an updated version is submitted.”

Regarding allegations about the mine’s de-watering bores not meeting the guidelines, the department said it would undertake a more thorough investigation that its federal counterparts had. 

However, even if these environmental approvals were put in place in coming weeks and Adani was found to have complied with existing approvals, the mine could not proceed until the W&J TO appeal before the Federal Court Bench is heard.

The nationwide movement against Adani is gearing up for a busy few months. A national mobilisation is being organised to coincide with the first sitting day of federal parliament in Canberra on February 12.

Snaps actions, such as those organised to meet the Coalition and Labor election caravans in Queensland in recent weeks and outside the address by Adani CEO Lucas Dow at the Sydney Mining Club on February 7, will continue.

The Stand Up 2 Aurizon group is planning an action directed at the rail and port aspects of the project in Bowen from February 23 to March 3.

The next major national mobilisation will be the School Strike 4 Climate on March 15.

Various groups are hoping to convert climate change and opposition to new coal mines into key election issues.

Grey Power Climate Protectors, among others, will be targeting the seats of Melbourne and Brisbane for 50 days leading up to the federal elections. In NSW, anti-coal activists are targeting a number of marginal seats in the lead-up to the March state election.

Labor’s shadow treasurer Chris Bowen is citing sovereign risk as one of the reasons Labor will not rule out supporting Adani. The other reason he gave to a meeting in Bowen on February 4 is that the mine has been scaled down. In other words, Labor is unconcerned about the prospect of more coal mines.

Given this, we need to step up our organising efforts if we are going to make Labor pay a significant price for its support for Adani and disastrous climate change.

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