Queensland Labor fast tracks Adani and environment groups go into hiding

29 May 2019
Rebecca Barrigos

Queensland premier Annastacia Palaszczuk has announced that the Labor government will fast track the outstanding approvals required for Adani’s Carmichael mine in the Galilee Basin. The announcement was supposedly a necessary response to Labor’s electoral drubbing in Queensland. The state government is using the widely-accepted narrative that Queensland workers want Labor to approve the mine, so it is just being democratic.

Rubbish. The ALP has supported the mine and the opening up of the Galilee Basin to more coal projects since well before the election. Queensland Labor promised Adani a $400 million taxpayer subsidised loan, pledged to build a $100 million access road, signed off on a 60-year, unlimited water lease and refused to rule out extinguishing the native title claim of the Wangan and Jagalingou people, who have fought the construction of the mine on their land for years.

Labor’s self-serving and cynical use of the election result to rush through Adani’s approvals has been met with paralysis by some of the key environment organisations in the anti-Adani campaign. Groups such as Stop Adani Brisbane tied their campaign strategy to the election of a Shorten government, and are now demoralised, angst-ridden about their messaging and immobilised by the dubious proposition that opposition to the Carmichael mine alienates everyone in North Queensland.

The elect Labor strategy was a mistake because Labor never opposed Adani. But more broadly, the campaign being stunt-driven and electorally focussed meant that it never realised the potential for mass demonstrations. Since Stop Adani was launched, there have been barely any rallies organised by the group under its own steam in Brisbane. In the lead up to 18 May, in place of a large central mobilisation that could have pressured state Labor no matter what the outcome of the federal election, the campaign was preoccupied with small and far flung actions outside LNP electorate offices which were largely invisible, and door knocking to secure a Shorten government.

The inaction of campaign groups now that the Carmichael mine is on the verge of getting the last green light it needs is a disaster. There are permits for nine other mines in the Galilee Basin. Approval of Adani and its rail line will open the Basin up to these coal projects, which will have an estimated combined output of 600 million tonnes of coal each year. If burned, that amount of coal would increase global carbon emissions by 10 percent.

The situation calls for urgent action, not passive reflection or anxiety about what exact pitch would win the hearts and minds of voters in regional Queensland. Hand-wringing of this nature as an excuse for stepping away from campaigning is totally irresponsible. Why should the future of the planet be beholden to the backwardness of the most conservative seats in Australia?

The right wing constituency in regional Queensland is not a new phenomenon. If we accept the logic that we need to abandon the public campaign against the Carmichael mine because regional Queenslanders don’t agree with us, then the left should also have stopped campaigning for Indigenous rights in the 1960s because Queensland was the last state to grant Aboriginal people voting rights. I call bullshit on this approach.

There is the potential for a protest campaign against Adani. There have been several sizeable climate strikes this year, including a pre-election rally of up to 5,000 people in Brisbane called by the Bob Brown Foundation. These have shown that many people in south-east Queensland want to take action on the climate and could be mobilised against Palaszczuk’s decision to fast track Adani.

This has been confirmed since the election, with hundreds mobilising in the past week in Brisbane in snap actions called by groups such as Extinction Rebellion. With Queensland Labor using the excuse of the election result to put profit before planet, and a federal government of climate change denialists and coal-adoring degenerates, the time to stop Adani is now. We need protests, more action and more opportunities to publicly mobilise the real opposition to the Adani mine. And we’ve not a minute to spare.

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