As the decision deadline looms for the $1 billion Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility (NAIF) loan to Adani for construction of rail infrastructure for the Galilee Basin mega coalmine, a rash of protests erupted in Brisbane, Sydney, Melbourne, Townsville, Cairns, Mackay and at Adani’s work sites near Belyando in Central Queensland.
The spate of nonviolent direct action protests undertaken by activists from Frontline Action on Coal (FLAC) which began in late October, together with actions directed at local federal MPs in the Stop Adani Shakeup week (November 20 to 24) meant the campaign to stop the Adani mine became the dominant issue in the Queensland state election.
On November 3, at the end of the first week of the election campaign, caretaker Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk reversed the government’s previous position and pledged to veto the loan if re-elected. This decision reflected opinion polls which showed 62% of Queenslanders opposed the NAIF funds going to Adani. A similar percentage agreed that the Liberal-National Party should follow Labor’s lead and also promise to veto the loan if elected.
The movement to stop the Adani mine proceeding operates on a number of fronts. Local groups, such as the Mackay Conservation Group, Whitsunday Residents Against Dumping, Land Services of Coast and Country (LSCC) and North Queensland Conservation Council, have launched a number of legal challenges since the Adani proposal was first mooted in 2010. The Wangan and Jagalingou Traditional Owners Council have also consistently opposed the mine and initiated a number of legal actions.
These legal tactics have been a major contributor to the delay in the mine commencing in spite of it clearing all other administrative and legal barriers. The Traditional Owners’ latest claim in the High Court is due to be heard in March.
Galilee Blockade and FLAC represent the most activist sector of the movement, focusing on nonviolent direction protests in Brisbane and other centres. Galilee has directed action mainly at Adani’s contractual partner Downer and Queensland Labor, highlighting the connection between Adani’s public relations firm and Queensland Labor. FLAC, as the name suggests, has been active in the frontline at Abbot Point and other areas of central and northern Queensland during the election campaign.
Five activists blocking work on the Abbot Point to Galilee Basin rail line were arrested for contravening police orders and blocking a road. On November 21 a multi-faith group of six peaceful protesters blocked work on the rail line. At Proserpine on November 24, a group of community members peacefully occupied the electorate office of Queensland LNP Member for Whitsunday Jason Costigan to protest his support for Adani and the proposed Urannnah Dam.
In March the national Stop Adani Alliance of 13 nongovernment organisations was set up. Members included the Bob Brown Foundation, the Australian Conservation Foundation, 350.org, GetUp!, the Australian Youth Climate Coalition, the Seed Indigenous Youth Climate Network, Greenpeace, Sea Shepherd, and the Australian Marine Conservation Society.
In launching the alliance, comparisons were made with the campaign to Save the Franklin. Since then numerous local Stop Adani Groups have formed. The national focus has been to oppose the NAIF funding and organise a National Day of Action on October 7 that mobilised thousands around the country.
Last week’s Stop Adani Shakeup was directed at local federal (mainly Labor) politicians, to encourage them to come out against the mine, which currently is supported by both Coalition and Labor at both federal and state government levels.
The timing of the Queensland election proved to be a perfect storm. The Adani mine was a key campaign issue and the largest rallies against it took place during the campaign. Rallies were held in Brisbane, Cairns, Mackay and other centres and Adani’s office in Townsville was occupied. Activists there also hijacked meet the candidates forums.
The movement has kept up the pressure, rallying outside Parliament House in Brisbane, Mackay and Cairns after the election to remind Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk of her commitment to veto the NAIF loan.
If Palaszczuk does veto the NAIF loan it will be a victory for the movement, but the momentum needs to be maintained. Adani insists it is still committed to building the mine and rail project. Vetoing the NAIF loan will make it harder, but not impossible, for the project to get across the line.