A 2019 Australian Federal Election Policy Guide

SECTION 14

 

 

POLARISING ISSUES (7 OF 8) 

 

THE FUTURE OF COAL MINING IN AUSTRALIA 

COAL MINING IN AUSTRALIA- THE ENVIRONMENT

 

 

THE ADANI COALMINE

 

ADANI Environmental breaches history.

 

A    In February, 2018, an internal investigation by the Federal Environment Department has found Indian mining giant Adani "may have been negligent" in failing to disclose its Australian CEO's links to a company convicted of environmental offences in Africa. Adani's Australian CEO, Jeyakumar Janakaraj, was the director of operations at a Zambian copper mine when it discharged toxic pollutants into a major river in 2015.

 

The mining company, KCM, later pleaded guilty to four charges, including polluting the environment and wilfully failing to report it. Under the Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Act, the environmental history of corporate executive officers must be disclosed to the department.

 

The department considered a criminal prosecution against Adani over the omission, but decided the prospect of a conviction was limited. A compliance report prepared for the department's investigation found:

 

"Adani Mining Pty Ltd may have been negligent in that; when requested in August 2015, it failed to disclose a complete account of its executive officers in relation to environmental matters. It may not be in the public interest to invest significant additional resources to pursue a criminal prosecution when it is unclear that the oversight was done negligently in order to mislead the department and the minister".

 

B      In May 2017, Michael Slezak reported that Adani had been fighting to hide details of what it told the Queensland Government about the risk of pollution to the Great Barrier Reef ahead of Cyclone Debbie in 2017.

 

A breach at Abbott Point was responded to with a $12,000 fine. Adani applied for temporary licence to pollute wetlands as Cyclone Debbie rolled in after realising potential for overflow.

 

Conservationists say documents and a series of emails obtained through freedom of information laws appear to show the company and the Queensland Government knew the pollution would be so bad it would break the law. Cyclone Debbie — what would become the most dangerous storm to hit Queensland since 2011 — was quickly approaching the coast.

 

Adani received a temporary licence to pollute wetlands around its coal export terminal at Abbot Point near Bowen with coal-laden water.

 

Adani realised the large amount of rain falling into its storage pools would likely cause them to overflow onto important wetlands next door to the site. It would also dump polluted water directly into the ocean and into the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area.

 

The Queensland Government said Adani admitted to breaching its licence, spilling polluted water into the Marine Park that was 800 per cent dirtier than was allowed.

 

According to lawyers from the Queensland Environmental Defenders' Office, this means the breach of the licence could be a much more serious matter.

 

- Coal-laden water passed through monitoring location adjacent to Great Barrier Reef World Heritage area

 

- Water was discharged from Adani's Abbot Point coal terminal - Environment Department said Adani advised it of "non-compliant" release of site water

 

- The Queensland Environment Department granted Adani a temporary emissions licence (TEL) to allow the company to release excess water at the site to cope with heavy rainfall caused by Tropical Cyclone Debbie.

 

- Coal-laden water, exceeding authorised limits, passed through a monitoring location at the terminal called W2.W2 is situated on the northern marine side of the terminal, adjacent to the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage area.

 

The Environment Department confirmed Adani advised it of a "non-compliant release" of site water. "The TEL authorised total suspended solids releases of up to 100 milligrams per litre," Environment Department director-general Jim Reeves said.

 

 

However, Adani Abbot Point Bulk coal provided a report to EHP [the department] on 24 April advising it had a water discharge on 30 March from a licensed point on the northern side of the terminal, containing 806mg/L of sediment." "

 

Even with a licence to pollute in its back pocket, Adani has still managed to exceed the permitted discharge of contaminants by 800 per cent," the Mackay Conservation Group's Peter MacCallum said.

 

Mr Reeves said Adani told the department none of the site water reached the marine environment or the adjoining Caley Valley wetlands, which is home to 40,000 shore birds.

 

A spokesman for Adani said the company believed it had acted, "within the requirements of the temporary emissions licence", a position backed at the time by the department. Queensland Resources Council chief executive Ian Macfarlane accused the ABC and Fairfax of rolling out "fake news" over claims by conservationists contaminants had been released from the Abbot Point terminal.

 

C        In September, 2018 Adani groundwater bores were being investigated amid claims they were sunk without approval Conservationists have repeatedly warned that the company's dewatering plans would see groundwater levels plummet;

 

The environmental group Coast and Country has obtained high resolution satellite and drone imagery which it says shows the "illegal" works at the site of Adani's controversial Carmichael coal mine project in north Queensland.

 

"Adani have sunk six dewatering bores, They've needed approval, a groundwater approval, for these bores. They don't have that. They've drilled into Great Artesian Basin aquifers, they've put at risk our groundwater particularly at a time when half the country's in drought."

 

Dewatering bores are used in mining operations to depressurise the coal seam and to lower groundwater levels for open cut and underground operations. The environment department said the

 

"bores were recently drilled and were not in place at the time of a recent inspection of the site" by departmental staff. The department is now investigating the location and purpose of these bores"

 

Conservationists have repeatedly warned that Adani's dewatering plans will see groundwater levels plummet, threatening the nearby Doongmabulla Springs, which are recognised as a nationally important wetland.

 

 

The Doongmabulla Springs is an artesian springs complex in central north Queensland "It's very concerning that Adani has apparently started work without confirming through the Groundwater Dependent Ecosystem Management Plan that the aquifer feeding these springs is not going to be disturbed by the mining," said Jo Bragg from Queensland's Environmental Defenders Office, which is acting for Coast and Country.

 

 

"The annual return lodged by Adani does in fact say that they've done zero works relating to the site. The persuasive evidence unearthed by our clients is that that this is not true, that in fact project Stage 2 works have commenced including dewatering, site clearance and roadworks."

D       In November 2018, Michael Slezak reported that Adani announced a scaled-down version of its Carmichael coal mine will go ahead; environmentalists express scepticism Indian energy giant Adani announced its Carmichael mine and rail project in central Queensland will be 100 per cent self-financed.

 

Adani said in the statement it has finance and is "ready to start". The announcement comes after environmental groups pressured banks not to lend money to the project.

 

The controversial mine in the Galilee Basin has been scaled back significantly from earlier plans, following years of legal and environmental disputes.

 

Adani Mining chief executive officer Lucas Dow said the mine would initially begin on a small scale and "ramp up" to a capacity of 27.5 million tonnes a year — less than half the size of the approved project.

 

“We will now begin developing a smaller open-cut mine comparable to many other Queensland coal mines and will ramp up production over time."

 

Mining lobby group welcomed news, says the economy will benefit from thousands of new jobs.

 

Mining lobby group the Minerals Council of Australia welcomed the news, saying it would provide an economic boost.

 

"The Queensland and Australian economies will benefit from thousands of new regional jobs and long-term investment in the mine and rail infrastructure” .

 

Ms Constable also noted the mine's construction could open up the Galilee Basin to further coal development. Federal Resources Minister Matt Canavan congratulated the company on its

 

"focus and commitment to the project. Adani has been a little Aussie battler. So many have written it off but they just keep chugging along. The Carmichael project has the potential to create more than 7,000 new jobs in Queensland — a remarkable contribution to our regional and state economies."   

 

A Queensland Government spokesman said the announcement was a very different proposal to what had previously been made.

 

"In addition to the change in scope, this announcement involves a rail corridor that will require, among other things, agreements with existing users and the operator. No taxpayers' money will go towards this project."

 

Australian Conservation Foundation CEO Kelly O'Shanassy said:

 

" Many on both sides of politics understand burning the coal from the Adani mine and the broader Galilee Basin will be terribly damaging for our climate. There are numerous regulatory hurdles, approvals and management plans to clear. Adani still needs to sign contracts, secure access to rail lines and unacceptably move to extinguish native title. Adani remains under investigation from the Queensland Government for allegedly sinking illegal bore holes into groundwater aquifers. And Adani is being taken to court by the Government for polluting the Great Barrier Reef with polluted coal water."

 

 

Julien Vincent, executive director of financial activist group Market Forces, said

 

"This is a project that still doesn't have all of its approvals. Its claims of an Indigenous Land Use Agreement are being challenged in the High Court"

 

The federal Greens also said there was still a chance the mine and rail project would be blocked. Senator Larissa Waters said Adani needed to submit its water and biodiversity management plans.

 

"Adani's approval could be reviewed and revoked because we know what a dire state the climate is in. The IPCC has just handed down its latest report and that could legally be considered new information that could trigger a reconsideration of Adani's environmental approval."

THE FUTURE OF COAL MINING IN AUSTRALIA

 

 

For those concerned about climate change and those seeking to exploit the nation's coal reserves, the issue is that the Adani mine may just be the start.

 

A slew of other Galilee basin projects are in the pipeline: Alpha coal, a joint venture between Indian giant GVK and Gina Rinehart's Hancock Prospecting; the China Stone project, which could potentially loop into Adani's railway; and Clive Palmer's Alpha North coal "monster mine". It's not clear whether these projects would be commercially viable.

 

The quality of the coal in the Galilee Basin is low compared to the high quality, benchmark thermal coal in Australia's Hunter Valley, or the coal in Queensland's Bowen Basin.

 

Although the highest quality thermal coal has been rising in price, in the face of climate change concerns the price of the lesser quality coal — of the kind found in the Galilee Basin — has been falling, and recently hit a two-year low.

 

But if the huge resources of the Galilee are exploited many fear it could spell climate change disaster.

 

Proponents of the mines claim these projects make little difference to global warming because power stations in Asia would get the coal from somewhere, and potentially from inferior quality coal resources.

 

The economic reality, however, is that if there is a flood of new coal onto world markets it will push down prices and encourage more coal-burning, at a time when the world's climate scientists are warning that catastrophic climate change can only be avoided if the world curbs its use of coal.

 

In October 2018, the IPCC Special Report on Global Warming was published.

 

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is the UN body for assessing the science related to climate change. It was established by the United Nations Environment Programme (UN Environment) and the World Meteorological Organization (WMO)

 

in 1988 to provide policymakers with regular scientific assessments concerning climate change, its implications and potential future risks, as well as to put forward adaptation and mitigation strategies.

 

It has 195 member states. Limiting global warming to 1.5°C would require rapid, far-reaching and unprecedented changes in all aspects of society, the IPCC said in a new assessment.

 

Ninety-one authors and review editors from 40 countries prepared the IPCC report in response to an invitation from the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) when it adopted the Paris Agreement in 2015. .

 

This report was a key scientific input into the Katowice Climate Change Conference in Poland in December 2018 when governments reviewed the Paris Agreement to tackle climate change.

 

The Paris Agreement adopted by 195 nations at the 21st Conference of the Parties to the UNFCCC in December 2015 included the aim of strengthening the global response to the threat of climate change by “holding the increase in the global average temperature to well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels and pursuing efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels.”

 

Stephen Dziedzic of the ABC reported that the Prime Minister of Tuvalu Enele Sopoaga has warned Australia that its "Pacific pivot" risks being fatally undermined by its climate change policies ahead of crucial talks in Poland. Tuvalu's PM made the comments ahead of COP24, the most important climate talks since the Paris agreement.

 

He says Australia's return to the Pacific undermined climate change inaction; Tuvalu is particularly vulnerable to climate change, being made up of low-lying atolls Mr Sopoaga has declared climate change could "totally destroy" his tiny Pacific nation, and he called on Australia to help fight it by blocking the contentious Adani coal mine in Queensland and making deeper cuts to carbon emissions.

 

”We cannot be regional partners under this step-up initiative — genuine and durable partners — unless the Government of Australia takes a more progressive response to climate change," Mr Sopoaga said.

 

Delegates from almost 200 countries gathered in the city of Katowice for the COP24 talks, the most important UN meeting on global warming since the landmark Paris deal. The talks are designed to get all 195 countries to agree to a binding set of conventions in order to reduce carbon emissions.

 

Tuvalu is made up of nine low-lying coral atolls and its highest point is only 4.5 metres above sea level, making it particularly vulnerable to climate change. US President Donald Trump pulled the US out of Paris.

 

Mr Sopoaga warned the world risked "going backwards" unless countries made concrete commitments to cut pollution. He also revealed all Pacific nations — including Australia and New Zealand — would sign a "new declaration" on climate change during the talks in Poland.

 

Some Pacific nations had been pushing for the declaration to specifically call for coal mining to be phased out. But Mr Sopoaga indicated Pacific nations had agreed to use softer language in order to get Australia on board.

 

"It will focus on the necessity of moving to renewable-energy-based economies which is safe and friendly to the environment and impress on all parties the need to develop renewable technology,"

 

ALP

 

At the Labor Party national conference in December 2018 [after Adani mine protestors were escorted off the conference stage] Opposition leader Bill Shorten announced Labor would create a new Environment Protection Agency and reaffirmed the commitment to deliver 50 per cent more renewable energy supply by 2030.

 

"It was only back in 2005 that a mere 7,000 Australian homes had a solar panel on their roof. Today it's over 2 million households. More and more families are taking back control of runaway power bills, taking pressure off the energy grid, and they have the chance while lowering their cost of living, to individually take up the fight against climate change, house by house, street by street."

Source:https://cdn.pixabay.com/photo/2017/01/18/10/17/renewable-1989416_960_720.jpg

THE QUESTION OF NATIVE TITLE CLAIMS AND COURT CASE COUNTER CLAIMS

 

THE SATURDAY PAPER

 

By Mike Seccombe

 

While Resources Minister Matt Canavan insists Adani has the full support of the Wangan and Jagalingou people, the legitimacy of a land agreement with the mining giant is the subject of a Federal Court appeal.

 

Just before 1pm on Tuesday, most media attention in Parliament House was focused on the government’s historic embarrassment on medical evacuations of asylum seekers. So, relatively few were there to witness another embarrassment, in the senate courtyard.

 

Resources Minister Matt Canavan, chief government advocate for the coal industry in general and the Adani Carmichael mine in particular, had called a media conference with representatives of the Wangan and Jagalingou people, traditional custodians of the land Adani wants to mine. Its purpose was to promulgate the line that the traditional custodians overwhelmingly support the giant coalmine.

 

To that end, Canavan, along with his National Party colleagues Michelle Landry and George Christensen, had invited a member of the W&J people to spruik the benefits of the mine. W&J spokesperson Patrick Malone began to speak of the employment benefits and alluded to a 294–one vote by traditional custodians in favour of the establishment of an Indigenous Land Use Agreement (ILUA) with Adani. But Canavan’s plan quickly went off the rails as other members of the W&J people crashed the media conference. W&J representative Murrawah Johnson interjected that it was “not appropriate” for Malone to be speaking for them, given the agreement is still subject to legal action. Things grew heated. Canavan exited the scene – although Christensen and Landry lingered – while the representatives of the competing W&J factions argued. So much for Canavan’s attempt to create for the media an illusion of Indigenous consent.

 

The fact is the native title holders of the land, like the rest of the nation, are divided over the Adani project. Indeed, they are far more divided – families are riven, lawyers are engaged in multiple cases, all manner of claims of dirty tricks regarding financial matters and other impropriety are alleged, and individuals’ legitimacy as title holders are being questioned.

 

Now even the United Nations is involved. And who has fomented all this discord? According to Canavan, who penned an opinion piece for The Australian this week, it is the work of environmentalists. Except Canavan did not call them environmentalists. He did not even refer to the environment, or the reason that a huge number of Australians oppose the opening up of the Galilee Basin coal deposits of central Queensland – that it would result in the release of billions of tonnes of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, and greatly exacerbate climate change. Canavan compared the mine’s opponents to “19th-century British imperialists”, and said “a bunch of far-removed activists is trying to tell First Australians what they can and can’t do on their own land. Whatever you think of coal,we should resist such an attempt to entrench this modern form of colonialism.” “

 

The native title system coerces Aboriginal people into an agreement. It’s going to happen anyway. If we don’t agree, the native title tribunal will let it go through, and we will lose our land and won’t be compensated either.” Canavan’s argument rested on the same statistic quoted in Monday’s messy media conference – a vote of 294 to one by the W&J people in favour of the land use agreement.

 

The resources minister contextualised the vote emotively, referring back to a November 27, 1861 massacre of at least 60 Wangan and Jagalingou people – likely many more – by white settlers. Survivors, Canavan said, were “dispersed to missions, often hundreds of kilometres away”. He continued: “Almost three years ago, their descendants convened in Maryborough to consider whether they would support the Adani Carmichael coal project on their traditional lands.

 

They voted 294 to one in favour of the project.” But the truth is not nearly so simple. In fact, there have been multiple votes, producing different outcomes. And despite what Canavan says, there is no doubt that many more than one of the traditional custodians of the land Adani wants to mine oppose giving it to the company.

 

Anthony Esposito, an adviser to the Wangan Jagalingou Family Council, which opposes the mine, complains the votes only seem to count when they favour development. “In 2012 there was a decision by the claim groups to reject the ILUA. Similarly, they rejected it in 2014. After those two ‘no’s’ the Queensland government issued the mining leases, without consent,” he says.

 

Some of those who did vote for the ILUA held the belief they had been backed into a legal corner, and that the only way to get any benefit for their people was to agree to the mine.

 

A year before that vote, the National Native Title Tribunal had authorised Adani’s mining leases on the basis the mine would have a positive economic impact and was in the public interest. Less than two weeks before the vote, as Esposito says, the Queensland minister for national resources and mines, Dr Anthony Lynham, approved three mining leases.

 

As Tony McAvoy, SC, Australia’s first Indigenous silk, a specialist in land rights law and a W&J traditional custodian, told a conference in Brisbane last July, the system is stacked against Indigenous peoples when it comes to negotiating land use agreements. It was very rare for the Native Title Tribunal to reject a mining proposal. “The system, the native title system,” he said, “coerces Aboriginal people into an agreement. It’s going to happen anyway. If we don’t agree, the native title tribunal will let it go through, and we will lose our land and won’t be compensated either. That’s the position we’re in.”

 

Speaking to The Saturday Paper this week, McAvoy said his criticism was not of the Native Title Tribunal per se, but of the legislation under which it works, the Native Title Act. “There is a provision in the act that requires proponents in mining developments to consider compensation by reference to production volumes – that is, royalties,But there’s another provision that says that if the parties can’t agree, it goes to an arbitral body to determine it – the Native Title Tribunal – and the tribunal cannot make orders for those payments.

 

The lawyers on both sides know those limitations, and so do the miners. The general understanding is that if you disagree, you aren’t going to get those payments.” Put bluntly, those provisions present Indigenous people – not only the W&J people but all native title holders dealing with mining companies – with Hobson’s choice. They can either agree to an ILUA, in which case the mine goes ahead and they get something out of it, or they can refuse, in which case the mine almost certainly goes ahead anyway, and they get nothing.

 

No doubt that consideration played on the minds of those who voted in favour of the ILUA in 2016. Even Patrick Malone, whom Canavan brought to parliament this week, has complained repeatedly that the system was stacked in favour of miners, and that he and others were coerced into their decision. In 2015, before the vote, he told Fairfax Media he was resigned to the mine going ahead and was trying to get the best result for his people. “We’re looking at an end game here and the end game is to make sure that we get our native title determination. If we’d have gone into this thing where we’re going to lose, they would have used that against us having our native title rights recognised.”

 

In 2017, just after the land use agreement was registered, Malone again spoke of the duress under which he and his fellow native title claimants had been placed – this time by the Queensland government, on behalf of Adani. “Each of us applicants got a letter from the co-ordinator-general saying because we weren’t willing to engage with certain people, they were preparing to start proceedings to extinguish native title against all Wangan Jagalingou country.The seven [out of 12 representatives of the W&J native title claimants] of us decided it’s all about having our native title recognised, so we went back to Adani and said we’re willing to negotiate ILUA with you.”

 

Of the original 12, one claimant, Craig Dallen, has since withdrawn his support, leaving the group evenly split. But Professor Sarah Maddison of Melbourne University – whose forthcoming book, The Colonial Fantasy, analyses the shortcomings of the native title system – says the decision taken at that April 2016 meeting did not amount to a free, democratic and overwhelming expression of the will of the Indigenous custodians, as Canavan portrays it. Rather, it was the result of “a divide and conquer strategy”.

 

The mining company and its political backers engaged in a process of “manufacturing consent by exploiting dissent”. Had the ILUA not been agreed, Maddison says, the Queensland government could have compulsorily acquired the land for the Adani project. Of course, as Esposito says, the state would prefer not to have to do that, “because then the cost of compensation and moral opprobrium of extinguishing Aboriginal people’s rights would fall on the state”.

 

So far, the government has not done that, for a few reasons. Doubts remain about the financing of the project, and W&J opponents of the mine are still pursuing legal action. A full accounting of the court actions resulting from the divisions among traditional custodians would take books to tell. Suffice to say the opponents of the Adani project have fought every step of the way. And lost. When once it seemed a win was possible, the federal government snatched it from them.

 

The prospect of stopping the Adani mine arose as the result of a challenge in the Federal Court to an ILUA in Western Australia in which the court determined – in what is known as the McGlade decision – that to have standing the agreement required the signature of all native title claimants, rather than just some of them. “As of the moment of that judgement,” says Esposito, “the Adani ILUA was as good as dead.” But the federal government revived it, with rare haste. As Maddison says in her book: “In an effort to protect the Adani deal, less than two weeks after the McGlade decision the federal government introduced the Native Title Amendment (Indigenous Land Use Agreements) Bill 2017” to close that loophole in the law. Still the W&J opponents of the ILUA persist.

 

In July 2018,Tony McEvoy said the current system, by providing for mining developments to proceed without consent from traditional custodians, was racially discriminatory, and inconsistent with the United Nations’ declaration on the rights of Indigenous peoples, which states land not be dispossessed without “free, prior and informed consent”. The following month, the W&J Family Association put its case to the UN’s Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination. In December, the committee contacted the Australian federal government, through our UN ambassador, expressing its concern that consultation on Adani’s ILUA “might not have been conducted in good faith”.

 

The committee echoed McAvoy’s criticism and referenced the government’s response to the McGlade decision. It questioned whether the proposed agreement, which would extinguish an agreement of native title rights over 27,750 hectares of land, reflected the “free, prior and informed consent of all [W&J] representatives”. It urged Australia to “consider suspending” the Adani agreement until consent was given by “all Indigenous peoples, including the Wangan and Jagalingou Family Council”, and sought a formal response from the government by April. Canavan responded informally, and intemperately, in his piece for The Australian.

 

The “gullible” committee had fallen for a line of “hogwash” peddled by the neo-imperialist activists, he wrote. He complained that the UN committee had failed to mention the 294-to-one outcome of the Maryborough meeting. “The resulting Indigenous Land Use Agreement has already withstood a legal challenge in the Federal Court, a fact to which the UN seems blind,” Which is true

 

. But the challenge he refers to, and the resulting decision by Justice John Reeves to back the ILUA, is also currently under appeal to the full bench of the Federal Court, much to the chagrin of Adani.

 

The multinational mining company is playing a very hard legal game. In December, it began proceedings to bankrupt Adrian Burragubba, a Wangan and Jagalingou opponent of the mine, claiming more than $600,000 in legal costs the company incurred in contesting various past unsuccessful legal actions to which he had been party.

 

Adani also sought to stymie the current appeal by asking the court to require W&J opponents come up with $161,000 security against its legal costs. Says Esposito: “They tried to use the security of costs issue to knock us out, and it hasn’t worked. Justice Robertson allowed only $50,000 security against costs.”

 

The case may still have fallen over – $50,000 is a great deal of money for these “impecunious” claimants, as Adani describes them – save for the intervention of civil society group, the Grata Fund. Grata is a charity and a funder of public interest litigation, focusing on issues of democracy, climate change and racial justice.

 

It agreed to provide the security. “So,” says Esposito, “we have succeeded in getting UN intervention, we secured an appeal in the full Federal Court, with the help of the Grata Institute.

 

Plus we got the added benefit of Justice Robertson saying there was an arguable case of error [in the Reeves judgement]. These are significant things.” But the appeal is yet to be heard. In essence, the claim being made is that the Maryborough meeting was a sham – stacked by Adani with people who were never entitled to vote.

 

The appeal contends that Reeves erred by rejecting the proposition that the Native Title Act required “reasonable efforts” to be made to identify which people actually held native title to the ILUA area.

 

Questions of Aboriginal identity are always tricky, and they are all the more so in this case, because – as Canavan himself noted in his opinion piece – the Wangan and Jagalingou people were removed from their country by white settlers generations ago, and widely dispersed.

 

Says Esposito: “Of the 294 votes in favour, by our analysis about 60 per cent aren’t W&J identified people. We think our prospects are pretty good.” The appeal is expected to be heard in May. The docket should read “David v Goliath”, given the relative resources of the parties involved.

 

On one side the multibillion-dollar mining conglomerate, backed by the federal government and aided by a legislative regime skewed in its favour, and on the other, a relative handful of impecunious Indigenous custodians. It’s a big case, not only for the W&J people, but for an entire, overheating planet.

 

This article was first published in the print edition of The Saturday Paper on Feb 16, 2019 as "Canavan hijacks native title fight on Adani"..

ALP LEADER BILL SHORTEN COMMENTS - THE ADANI COAL MINE

 

Opposition leader Bill Shorten has often been accused of flip-flopping on Adani coal mine, particularly by Conservative Senator Canavan, and then Environment Minister Josh Freydenburg.

 

In January 2018, Mr Shorten took the Queensland Labor Government’s position that the Adani  mine would not be supported “ if it does not stack up economically and environmentally” when asked about the mine at the National Press Club.

 

Speculation followed that Labor was exploring legal avenues to halt the project if it wins government.

 

On 2 Mar 2018, the SMH reported Opposition leader Bill Shorten denied telling colleagues he wants to block the Adani mega-mine should Labor win government “instead insisting that blocking it would hurt foreign investment in Australia. I don’t like it very much”.

 

Mr Shorten said Labor was the party of the environment, but

 

“if one government enters into contracts then a future government can't simply rip them up. To do so would be [a] sovereign risk. I’ve been to Queensland, from the outback to the coast, it's a beautiful country and it's worth preserving. But I also travel to mining communities and coal communities. It’s not an either-or [proposition]. We are a resource nation, a mining nation”

 

Mr Shorten declared the position amid internal wrangling over the divisive coal mine proposal, and concern from some quarters within the party that Labor is sacrificing its electoral chances in Queensland for city votes in Melbourne.

 

This pressure on taking a position came in the lead up to the Batman by election which would be a contest between Labor and the Greens who are consistent anti-coal mining advocates.

 

The Guardian reported that Adani submitted an altered laboratory report while appealing a fine for contamination of sensitive wetlands on the Queensland coast near the Great Barrier Reef.

 

While launching Ged Kearney’s campaign for Batman, Shorten said the “scandalous allegation” – if true – would mean that Adani did not deserve a licence to operate a coalmine.

 

Former Australian Conservation Foundation president, Geoff Cousins had claimed the week before that Shorten had told him he was prepared to back a proposal to revoke the licence using a provision of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act.

 

Then Environment and Energy Minister, Josh Frydenberg said Mr Shorten

 

“will tell the baristas of Batman one thing and the miners of Mackay another. He is determined to walk both sides of the street and he cannot be trusted. He has said he is the party of miners and at the same time he has said privately that he is against the Carmichael mine which could create thousands of jobs and billions of dollars of export income for Australia”.

 

Activist group 350.org pledged to escalate campaigning in Batman in response to Labor’s “weakness”, and claimed the party’s position would cost it votes.

 

“Two thirds of Australians do not support Adani’s mine going ahead ... Batman wants leadership, and they are not seeing it from Labor,” senior campaigner Jake Wishart said.

 

On March 7th 2018, ABC reporter Andrew Probin cited Bill Shorten as saying that the Adani Coal mine, in his view, does not ‘stack up’.

 

"I don't support it because it doesn't add up commercially and environmentally. It is the same project, it's the same proposition.”

 

This report suggested Bill Shorten's was hardening his position and had made up his mind that the proposed mine did not ‘add up’. At a presser in Adelaide, standing next to South Australian Premier Jay Weatherall, Mr Shorten returned to a more nuanced Queensland Government position.

 

By this time Mr Shorten would have received the reaction of his Federal Queensland colleagues who were reportedly unnerved by his hardening public position on the mine. Queensland colleagues fear there would be an election backlash in regional Queensland because Labor was being perceived as being ‘anti-coal’.

 

Queensland will be one of the key political battlegrounds at the next federal election, with a handful of rural and regional seats to be hotly contested.

 

A foretaste of this reality came for Labor's Cathy O'Toole who won the seat of Herbert by just 37 votes in the 2016 election, ousting the LNP's Ewen Jones.

 

Mr Jones tweeted 

 

"How can Adani possibly secure finance when the alternate Prime Minister has basically said 'at your own risk'. What does this say about foreign investment in Australia? What happens to the next mining proposal?"

 

Reporter Andrew Probin cited a Queensland Federal Labor MP told the ABC that he was not comfortable with Mr Shorten's new position on Adani because it would be interpreted by regional voters as being "anti-coal". "This is potentially pulling a rug from under us," the MP said, saying the ALP should not put itself in a position of being potentially blamed for the mine's collapse.

 

Another Labor MP, a frontbencher told Probin the Opposition must have a "defensible" position on Adani, which allowed for scepticism and doubt on the project's viability but didn't pronounce a formal conclusion. The frontbencher explained Mr Shorten's predicament

 

"Bill is never going to be able to find a position that satisfies the dark browns and the greens. We need a nuanced, considered position that recognises that most of the project's hurdles are commercial."

 

The Federal Labor leader's withdrawal of even qualified support for the mine was now publicly different to Queensland Labor Premier Anna Palaszczuk, who restated her support for the Adani project in the Parliament,

 

"The Government supports Adani as long as it financially stacks up. We have been clear about that from day one, I will stand up for Queensland and for jobs in the resources sector, for what it brings this state”.

 

Six months later, in September 2018, Mr Shorten was asked by ABC Insiders about his shadow Minister for Climate Change and Energy Mark Butler. Butler is publicly and unequivocally opposed to the Adani mine. Mr Shorten responded that it was only Mr Butler’s “judgment” on the issue.

 

Queensland Senator Matt Canavan was all over this inconsistency, motivated at least in some part by a desire to paint Bill Shorten as an ‘anti-mine’ leader in Queensland electorates.

 

“How can a Shadow Minister have a 'judgement' about such an important project, and the Opposition leader not have a view at all. When Bill Shorten was pressed on his position on the project he sat on the fence and refused to give his position. Instead Bill meekly commented that he will 'sit down with my Cabinet colleagues' if he gets elected. In a week where figures showed that Queensland has the highest unemployment of any state, Bill's fence sitting is just not good enough ".

 

 

By late November, 2018 Mr Shorten was clearly looking to the Federal election in the long term, and in the short term, the upcoming public gaze on the December National Labor Party Conference where the controversial Adani Mine issue would come to a head in Labor Party debate.

 

His own shadow Minister for Energy and the Environment,

 

 

--Mark Butler, had only recently publicly stated his unequivocal opposition to the Adani Mine;

 

--The Greens and Conservationists had persistently and unequivocally opposed the mining project on the grounds of environmental destruction risks and another coal mine adding to climate change gas emission blow outs; and

 

--The Queensland State Government had taken a persistent pro coal-mining position on the grounds that it would provide much needed employment and resource tax income.

 

Other events over 2018 indicate their willingness to overlook or forgive significant environmental breaches by Adani because the economic ‘pay off’ of supporting the mine takes priority. Examples include

 

- A ‘slap on the wrist’ fine of $12,000 for polluting Abbott Point wetlands;

 

- A soft response to the sinking of ground water bores without approval; and

 

- The decision not to pursue legal action over the Adani failure to disclose its Australian CEO's links to a company convicted of environmental offences in Africa, a breach of the Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Act, because it was “unclear that the oversight was done negligently in order to mislead the department and the minister", and

 

- A ‘lock step’ willingness to work with the Federal Government to forgive or overlook environmental concerns was further exposed by a CSIRO report in December 2018.

 

ABC investigative reporter Mark Willacy confirmed the CSIRO found serious flaws in Adani's key water management plan to protect an ancient springs complex near its proposed Carmichael coal mine.

 

Adani's Groundwater Dependent Ecosystem Management Plan (GDEMP) is designed to minimise impacts on ecosystems including the nationally important Doongmabulla Springs. Conservationists and some scientists warn the springs could permanently dry up under Adani's plan to drain billions of litres of groundwater a year for its proposed mine.

 

The GDEMP is a requirement of the Federal Government's final approval and also needs to be ticked off by the Queensland Government. On November 22nd, Mr Shorten reportedly suggested that Adani’s proposed coal mine in Queensland would not worsen Australia’s greenhouse emissions.

 

When asked when there would be enough damage from climate change - such as harm to the Great Barrier Reef - to prompt Labor to block the mine, Mr Shorten said he didn't accept the proposition.

 

"I believe that our policies on renewable energy will actually reduce our emissions. The actual decision about Adani is not going to affect Australian emissions. The IPCC has made it clear that the way you take global action isn't through particular projects. We are very committed to protecting the reef, we are very committed to taking action on climate change, and we've made it very clear that we won't put any taxpayer resources into the Adani mine."

 

Anti-mine activists took this statement as a strong indication that Mr Shorten had moved off the fence and, worse, become an apologist for the Adani Mine project. Activists opposed to the coal mine in the Galilee Basin formed queues outside the offices of Mr Shorten, senior Labor MP Anthony Albanese in Sydney and Queensland Premier Anastacia Palaczszuk to voice their disapproval.

 

Brisbane-based Stop Adani activist Anne Gardiner said Labor's energy policy lacks credibility if it allows the Adani mine to go ahead.

 

"With the impacts of climate accelerating, the world just can't afford to mine and burn more coal or allow unprecedented volumes of water to be extracted from inland rivers and precious water basins," she said in a statement.

SOURCE: https://www.abc.net.au/news/image/10726678-3x2-700x467.jpg

Update February 5 2019.

 

After a long period of uncertainty about the Australian Labor Party’s attitude to the Adani Mine and coal mining policy in general, Shadow Treasurer has finally made it very clear that the party would not stop the Adani Mine project if elected to Government.

 

This will be good news to people in Queensland who to this point have been convinced that the federal Australian Labor Party is ‘anti-coal’ and ‘ant-mining’.

 

It will be bad news for the Australian Greens, Environmentalists, and anyone concerned about climate change and the impact of such projects on the local environment - in this case the Great Barrier Reef and Bowen Basin wetlands.

 

A Labor government would allow the Adani coalmine in Queensland to proceed. Treasury spokesman Chris Bowen said the Party had taken this position  because a decision to block it would (1) raise concerns of sovereign risk and (2) ignore the high unemployment challenges in Queensland’s Bowen Basin region.

 

Mr Bowen told an audience of Labor supporters that while he understood the “passion” of the argument against the project, it was no longer the environmental threat of the original proposal.

 

Adani was to have been the largest coalmine in Australia but it is now far from that with several mines in its vicinity considerably larger.I believe in protection against sovereign risk, and of all the things I’ve prioritised spending money on in my first budget as Labor treasurer, if it proceeds, providing compensation for Adani for a breach of contract and breach of law is not one of them. I don’t want to give a dollar to Adani.”

 

Mr Bowen said he also gave consideration to the employment that would be generated by the project. “I’ve spent a lot of time in central Queensland and I understand the employment challenges there.” He said the jobless rate in the Bowen Basin, where the project was located, was “unacceptably high”.

 

 

Meanwhile, Coal Council chief executive Greg Evans yesterday hailed the latest trade report from the Australian Bureau of Statistics showing coal was Australia’s largest single export last year, earning $66.2 billion, ahead of the $62bn raised by iron ore.

 

“The export performance is a resounding rebuttal of coal detractors who have repeatedly called the end of this iconic industry due to falling demand”.

 

Coal export sales rose 15.9 per cent, buoyed by strong prices for both thermal coal, used to generate electricity, and metallurgical coal, used to manufacture steel.

 

Australia is the world’s largest coal exporter, accounting for about 36 per cent of global trade. The trade report shows China is now taking 34 per cent of Australia’s goods exports while providing 24 per cent of its imports.

 

Source: David Uren. No Adani Mine ban on my watch: Chris Bowen. The Australian. 5 February 2019. FEBRUARY 5, 2019. https://www.theaustralian.com.au/business/mining-energy/no-adani-ban-on-my-watch-chris-bowen/news-story/48bb7df7d794675d9d4379c729c91b30

UPDATE 12 FEB 2019

 

ADANI CLAIMS NO DAMAGE DONE IN QLD FLOODS EVENT

 

North Queensland’s Caley Valley Wetlands have been spared any environmental damage from floodwaters spilled from Adani’s Abbott Point coal terminal during the region’s extraordinary monsoon rainfall, according to {"scientific"} tests says The Australian. 

 

The Indian company, which is proposing a major new Galilee Basin coalmine, credited its hardworking staff and new infrastructure upgrades for protecting the wetlands, which environmentalists had claimed were threatened by the company.

 

In a statement to The Australian, the company said it had sent samples to an independent laboratory which confirmed the “total suspended solids” within the floodwater was only 58 milligrams per litre. By comparison, regulators have previously said the total suspended solids in central Queensland waterways following rainfall events typically exceeded 1000 mg/L.

 

Abbot Point Operations chief executive Dwayne Freeman said the floodwater was not “coal-laden sludge”.

 

“This is a very minor elevation in total suspended solids, following an extraordinary weather event that caused flooding and damage to much of North Queensland including many homes, businesses, and farms. These preliminary test results are a testament to the infrastructure upgrade program and the tireless work of our dedicated employees. We are confident there will be no environmental impacts to the wetlands area, despite this unprecedented weather event.”

 

No floodwaters were spilled into the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park, he said.

 

The Australian Conservation Foundation had condemned the spilling of potentially coal-laden floodwaters as “scandalous”.

 

Entrusting a multi-billion-dollar coal company with our Great Barrier Reef, clean water and threatened species is like allowing the fox to guard the hen house – they simply cannot be trusted to operate safely. As Australia suffers through the effects of burning coal, including intensifying heatwaves, floods and bushfires, it’s time that Prime Minister Morrison stopped running a protection racket for the coal industry and put a stop to Adani’s coal mine plans.”

 

Mr Freeman said

 

“The weather has been extreme up here at Abbot Point. Heavy rainfall has seen a significant amount of water accumulating on the Port site and surrounding properties. The flood water from our neighbouring properties on Thursday 7 February 2019 could not be contained any longer and exceeded our systems’ capacity, resulting in flood water entering the wetlands. Once we found the flood waters had moved across the site and into the wetlands, we notified the Department of Environment and Science" 

 

Source: Jared Owens. Caley Valley Wetlands spared damage from Adani’s Abbot Point floodwater spill.The Australian. 12 February 2019. 

https://www.theaustralian.com.au/business/mining-energy/caley-valley-wetlands-spared-damage-from-adanis-abbot-point-floodwater-spill/news-story/7c017ac49def45ff6da602125c7525c4.

 

 

Conclusion - The Great Barrier Reef was allegedly saved from Adani mine development damage,  but the Wetlands, well who knows ? Worse,  who cares, certainly not Adani.

 

ELECTION IMPLICATIONS

 

 

We can expect the Greens and anti-Adani activists to target Labor seats outside of Queensland and put pressure on the Australian Labor Party to withdraw support for the Adani mine and any future coal mine development. 

 

In contrast, the Coalition has already committed to exploring the development of dispatchable energy sources and a willingness to put tax payer money into funding such projects, including coal mining.

 

The Greens and environmentalist's might find it better to focus on and activate against this far worse case scenario for people who are not human induced climate change sceptics  instead on going on the offensive with the Australian Labor Party, albeit understandable that they have interpreted Mr Shorten's recent comments as coming close to being Adani Mine apologetics.

 

The image of the Bill Bus above with QLD JOBS scrawled across the side tells us something. Shorten is aware that he must win seats in Queensland at this election and going into Queensland with an uncompromising anti-mining message would be electoral self destruction.

 

This reality might be what he meant to convey when he told anti Adani protestors who raided the stage at the Labor Conference late in 2018 they were "not helping" the cause. 

 

The Australian Labor Party will invest in renewables and work towards the end of dispatchable energy sources that trash the environment in an evolutionary rather than revolutionary way.

 

To do otherwise would result in another three years of Opposition while the Coalition goes about funding new non renewable projects and telling the electorate to  make a misleading binary choice between lower carbon emissions and lower power bills. 

 

 

BOWEN BASIN WETLANDS