Since the 2010 declaration of the Anna Bligh state Labor government that Adani’s proposed Carmichael coalmine and rail project in Central Queensland was being assessed as a “significant project”, opponents have raised the shady dealings of the company on its home turf, India.
The continued support for the project by Labor and Coalition forces in Queensland and Canberra, in the face of the growing likelihood of the project achieving “stranded asset” status as sources of financing dry up, raises the question: “What is in it for the pollies?”
Links revealed between Coalition and Labor officials, campaign strategists and the public relations firm that was lobbying the Queensland government on behalf of Adani, fuel this question. The former Queensland state secretary of the Labor Party was present — in his role as Adani lobbyist — during the discussions that led to the Queensland government announcing a $320 million royalty holiday for Adani.
In response to anti-Adani activists’ relentless demands that the government veto the Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility (NAIF) loan to Adani, Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk made an about face and promised to veto the loan if the government was re-elected. In making this undertaking she was able to head off a smear campaign involving her partner who had acted as a consultant for Adani in the NAIF application process.
She made good on the promise after the election. However, the government has not yet decided whether to veto an application by Aurizon (the now privatised freight rail company) for the same project. Over the summer, activists from Frontline Action against Coal took action daily to disrupt Aurizon’s activities at its Bowen facility.
The federal government is seeking financial help for Adani after foreign loans have been ruled out .The Export Finance and Investment Corporation (EFIC) has confirmed it held "exploratory" talks on Adani with the office of trade minister Steven Ciobo, who last year ordered the agency to resume financing local mining projects after banks shied away from the coal sector.
Local government is now also in on the act.
In October, Townsville City Council and Rockhampton Regional Council announced they would jointly fund a $34 million airport for Adani’s Carmichael coalmine. The rationale for the expenditure was that it would be used by hundreds of fly-in-fly-out workers for the mine, bringing hundreds of millions of dollars to the cities’ economies. The councils also said the expenditure would ensure they ended up owning the airstrip.
It now emerges that while the councils will pay for the airstrip, Adani will own it. The discrepancy has seen the councils referred to Queensland’s Crime and Corruption Commission, which has asked the Department of Infrastructure, Local Government and Planning to investigate.
Outspoken federal MP Bob Katter has questioned why two Queensland councils are building an airport to service a huge Adani coalmine, saying there is an “unpleasant odour” to the deal.
On January 23, activists from Frontline Action Against Coal joined Townsville residents in protesting at a meeting of Townsville Council. They stood up during official proceedings and questioned the council’s decision to co-fund the airport.
Local resident and spokesperson for the protesters Elena Jeffreys said: “I came today because it’s the Townsville City Council open day, it’s the day they’re inviting residents to come and ask questions ... and I’m really concerned about the secrecy of the minutes and details of the $18.5 million contribution to the proposed airstrip.”
Townsville resident David Lowe told Green Left Weekly: “Council would be surprised how many people in Townsville oppose the Adani mine. There are high levels of scepticism about how many jobs would be generated and the timing of these alleged jobs.
“Locals well understand the impact the mine would have on the Great Barrier Reef and are determined to do what they can to protect the reef and the nearly 70,000 jobs dependent upon a healthy reef.
“Climate experts have told us we can have the reef or the mine; we can’t have both. Throwing money at imaginary ‘reef fixes’ is pointless if Australia continues to allow the main cause of the problem — fossil fuels — to be used.”