Queensland premier Annastacia Palaszczuk should hang her head in shame. She has proven once again that the word “Labor” in “Australian Labor Party” has no connection with the interests of working people in Australia — or anywhere else.
Palaszczuk headed a delegation to India on March 17 to underscore her government’s support for the Adani company’s proposed Carmichael thermal coalmine. If it is given the go ahead, it will be the largest coal mine in Australia and one of the largest in the world. It would be the first for the Galilee Basin, and it would open the door to more.
Palaszczuk and the billionaire owner of the company are claiming the project is all about jobs.
“There are regional Queenslanders fighting for jobs,” she said. “That’s what we’re for.”
She repeated the lie that the Carmichael mine is expected to provide 10,000 jobs. However, an expert witness for the Adani company admitted in a 2015 court hearing that the project would provide an average of 1464 full-time jobs in any one year.
Even allowing for extra jobs associated with the rail line and port, the 10,000 jobs figure is bogus.
Palaszczuk’s India stunt took place a day after businessperson Geoffrey Cousins presented a letter signed by 90 prominent Australians to the Adani company calling on the company to abandon the project.
The letter highlighted concerns about climate change, air pollution and public health, lack of public support in Australia, and opposition from Aboriginal people.
Cousins and tourism operator Lindsay Simpson confronted Palaszczuk the next day, pointing out that the Adani mine threatens 70,000 tourism jobs in Queensland.
This is because the mine massively increases the risk to the Great Barrier Reef — both directly through environmental damage from the associated port and because burning the coal would add to global warming.
Palaszczuk’s jobs lie also ignores the fact that many more jobs, and sustainable ones, could be created with renewable energy.
Adding further insult to working people — and undercutting the jobs’ lie — is the fact that the company structure is designed to shift billions of dollars to a Cayman Islands entity owned by the Adani family.
This is daylight robbery and should be a crime.
Yet, at every step along the way, the Queensland and federal governments have bent over backwards to smooth the way for this reckless development, including with legal, environmental and other approvals. The federal government is actively considering a loan of $1 billion to Adani from an infrastructure fund of public monies.
The Queensland government even appointed an Adani company director to the body overseeing the Port operations despite being warned of conflicts of interest!
If Labor had any real concern for working people, it would reject the notion that we should choose between jobs and the environment. Anything else is blackmail and should be rejected.
Workers have no interest in cooking the planet by burning coal when renewable energy can meet all of our energy needs more reliably and, now, more cheaply.
But what about jobs?
Gladstone mayor Matt Burnett claimed he had local support for joining Palaszczuk on her Indian trip because of the prospect of local jobs.
It is true, workers need a livelihood. A government that had the interests of working people front and centre would ensure that socially useful jobs with decent wages would be available to everyone who wanted to work.
Private corporations can not make such a guarantee, so job security implies a significant growth in the public sector. The privatisation of Telstra, Qantas and the Commonwealth Bank have all led to job cuts, a reduction in service quality and lower returns to the public purse — a triple loss to working people.
It stands to reason that an expansion of the public sector will create jobs, a genuine realisation of social need and a reduction in corporate tax evasion.
Bringing the entire energy sector into public ownership and mandating a rapid phase-out of dangerous fossil fuels in favour of renewable energy would be a good place to start.