Stop Adani wins prompt government backlash

Protest outside the Brisbane headquarters of Adani contractor GHD Engineering on August 1.
Protest outside the Brisbane headquarters of Adani contractor GHD Engineering on August 1. Photo: Alex Bainbridge

Since its launch in March 2017, the #StopAdani movement has rapidly grown and now has more than 100 local groups across the country.

The campaign has also broadened to involve groups such as Frontline Action on Coal, Galilee Blockade, Greypower and, importantly, the Wangan and Jagalingou Traditional Owners, on whose land the mine is being built.

Despite Adani getting the final go ahead for its mine in June, the movement has only ramped up its activity, working with new groups such as School Strike 4 Climate and Extinction Rebellion to maintain the pressure.

A measure of the success of this grassroots campaign has been the response to it.

In a speech to the Queensland Resources Council (QRC) in Brisbane on November 1, Prime Minister Scott Morrison outlined plans to crack down on climate activists and companies that refuse to provide services to the fossil fuel industry.

Successes

While #StopAdani has a single focus, it has deployed a variety of tactics. These have included: protests, lobbying, lengthy legal challenges (that succeeded in delaying the project for almost a decade) and secondary boycotts to pressure companies to not collaborate with Adani. 

According to Market Forces, there are currently 61 companies that have publicly stated they will not deal with Adani. This includes several banks and insurers, among them some of Australia’s best known companies, such as Allianz, ANZ, AXA, Commonwealth Bank, NAB, Suncorp, QBE, Westpac and Zurich.

The campaign also successfully blocked $1 billion in government funding from the Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility that was destined to build a rail line from the mine to the Abbot Point port facility.

As a result, Adani was forced to announce it would scale down and self-fund the project — though this turned out to largely mean putting the project further in debt and pushing for $4.4 billion of taxpayers’ money in tax exemptions, deferrals and capital subsidies.

#StopAdani spokesperson Isaac Astill told Green Left Weekly: “Adani initially said it would have its first shipment of coal ready for export in 2014 — and that project included a new airport, a new coal-fired power station and 400 kilometres of new rail.

“They are already 5 years behind schedule and they don't have any of that infrastructure in place. That is despite having the backing of the coal industry, the Australian government, and the mind-bogglingly wealthy Adani family.

“A people-powered grassroots movement has not only held Adani's climate-cooking coal mine at bay for 5 years — it has completely isolated the project.

“And we won't stop until we stop Adani.”

Targets

#StopAdani is currently targeting construction, insurance and haulage contractors.

Market Forces’ October Status Update noted: “As of October … Adani still needs finance, along with engineering and construction partners to enable the Carmichael project to go ahead. Within those two areas lie critical aspects such as insurance and coal haulage.

“Neither are going to be easy for Adani and, if the #StopAdani campaign chooses to, both could be made impossible, literally halting this project in its tracks.”

A national week of action was held in October targeting major engineering and design firm and long-term Adani contractor GHD.

GHD prepared Adani’s Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the project in November 2013. The report carried inflated potential jobs figures that are still used by supporters of the mine to justify the project, but which have been discredited by Adani’s own economic expert under oath in court.

GHD also undertook the consultation phase of the EIS and prepared the Project Commitments report submitted to the federal government on behalf of Adani.

GHD is set to hold its annual general meeting in Perth over November 12-15, which could be decisive in determining any future collaboration with Adani. #StopAdani activists plan to protest outside

#StopAdani groups are also lobbying local councils to declare a climate emergency and cancel or refuse to renew existing contracts with GHD.

Darebin Council, in inner northern Melbourne, unanimously passed a resolution on October 14 that it would write to GHD requesting it cease any involvement with Adani’s coal mine and associated infrastructure.

The motion also called for a report to be presented before the end of the year detailing the implications for council of withdrawing from any contractual agreements with GHD.

Other targets include rail operators Aurizon and Pacific National, two potential firms Adani could contract for its rail project and that have stated they are willing to work with the company.

Reaction

Unsurprisingly, the success of the #StopAdani campaign has provoked a fierce response from governments and the fossil fuel lobby.

In his speech to the QRC, Morrison claimed protests are a threat to the Queensland economy and that he would seek to outlaw the campaign strategy of “secondary boycotts”.

Secondary boycott laws are already in place against unions taking industrial action to force a company to cease trading with another company until the targeted company agrees to its demands.

Leading civil rights groups immediately slammed Morrison’s statement.

Human Rights Law Centre executive director Hugh de Kretser said: “From ending slavery to stopping Apartheid, boycott campaigns have played a critical role in achieving many social advances that we now take for granted.

“The Morrison government’s announcement that it is looking to ban certain boycott campaigns is deeply concerning.

“Protest is an essential part of our democracy. To protect our democracy and help ensure a better future for all Australians, governments should be strengthening our rights to come together and protest, not weakening them.”

Morrison has publicly pledged his unyielding solidarity with the coal industry and his intentions to go after those fighting to defend the environment.

By doing so, he has opened up the potential for a joint union/environment/civil rights campaign against government attempts to weaken the right to protest.

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