Al Capone was done for tax evasion

It now looks possible that the fate of the Adani Carmichael mine will be sealed by an adverse assessment of the mine’s impact on the black-throated finch.

That’s a far less satisfactory outcome than if the Queensland Land and Environment Court had accepted, as its NSW counterpart has done, that the climate (and health) damage from burning the coal produced by the mine was relevant in assessing the costs and benefits. That reasoning leads to the conclusion that no new mines should be started, let alone marginal projects like Carmichael.

But even disregarding the main issue, the Galilee Basin has all the problems associated with large mining projects, and on a huge scale: disturbance of a large land area, heavy demands for water use, and the problems of shipping through the Great Barrier Reef, and conflict with indigenous owners. Even if these aren’t the biggest reason to reject a project that would open the entire Basin to mining, they are big enough.

This is, of course, a fairly common pattern in political and legal decisionmaking. It may be impossible, for procedural reasons, to reach a determination on the central issues that are at stake, so some less central but more definite point ends up getting to the necessary outcome.

Adani’s site is home to one of the biggest remaining populations of the finch. The company didn’t help their cause by offering, as an offset, pastoral land they owned nearby. So nearby, it turned out, that it was sitting on top of another proposed coal mine (Clive Palmer’s Waratah Coal).

At this point, it appears that both sides are digging in for a long fight. Adani and the current Federal government have denounced the whole process as a sham. The Queensland government is going ahead without them.

Doubtless, if the project were both highly profitable and perceived as socially beneficial, some alternative would have been found. But the Carmichael project is economically unsound and environmentally disastrous.

Adani has clearly been playing for time, hoping for an explicitly political decision that would enable them to extract compensation. Having bought in at the top of the market in 2010, the company has shown no sign of willingness to spend its own money lately. It’s unlikely to commit to an expensive program to protect a bird.

On the other side, Labor has been waiting for the project to collapse under its own weight, so that they don’t expose themselves to political costs or claims for compensation. Adani hasn’t obligingly withdrawn, but the current dispute takes the issue of the table for a while.

There will doubtless be quite a few moves to come, and it’s hard to say who will come out ahead on issues like compensation. The likelihood that the project will be stopped has increased significantly. But it now seems likely that nothing much will happen before the Federal election due in May, and the Indian election, where Adani’s patron, Narendra Modi looks to be facing a tough fight.

10 thoughts on “Al Capone was done for tax evasion

  1. I hope this doesn’t turn out to be vested interest political tactics whereby the Qld ALP let the federal ALP off the hook by taking the issue off the table until at least after the federal election. How much of the big donations from any fossil fuel interests has any ALP branch refused or refunded?

  2. Modi is a pretty unreliable patron for Adani. The big issue in India is not Carmichael but the bailout of Adani’s 4 GW plant at Mundra in Gujarat, designed to run on imported coal and heavily in the red. Adani has secured approvals from the Gujarat state government for a bailout in the form of a higher PPA, but he needs a signoff from Delhi. Tata has a similar loss- making behemoth, but its current PPAs are with multiple states it has not yet all lined up for its plan. There are dozens of other coal plant owners also pleading for their handouts. My (very distant) take is that Modi has kicked the decision into the long grass until after the election. I don’t know what the Congress position is on the coal bailouts, but it is unlikely to be more favourable. A priori, the coal barons will be rescued, but not entirely – the votes of farmers who demand cheap electricity for their irrigation pumps are a higher priority.

  3. JQ, the CM article requires a gold brick before reading. Such a reversal of base alchemy transmutation in aid of master Murdoch’s quest for his elixir of life are beyond me.

    I don’t doubt it has been made to look as if Adani did not donate to the ALP in FY17/18 They apparently only donated to the tune of a few $000s in FY16/17 and FY14/15.

    Australian political donation disclosure laws, courtesy of the ALP/Lib self-serving duopoly, are a nasty joke in appalling bad taste going way beyond risible.

    30% to 40% of donations to political parties in the last decade are not caught by any disclosure laws!

    In FY17/18 alone, the source of $62.8m in party income was completely hidden!
    https :// www.

    The Greens and Nats dark money income at 70% and over is also proportionally massive.
    http ://

    https :// www.
    https :// www.
    https :// www.
    https ://

    The Greens again are calling for donations to political parties, and sources of income to be cleaned up
    https :// www.

    They have it now as a plan https ://

    But is it locked in clear Greens policy?
    https ://

  4. A few years ago I was on a project in North Queensland. One of the issues was how the project would effect the black throated finch. When our project team looked for the finches, we found the habitat that the environmentalists had highlighted, but no birds. As we stood looking for any sign of a finch, a local grower came by. When we asked where we might find any finches, he told us they had all been trapped and taken home by youngsters a long time ago.
    This seems to be recurring theme with environmentalists. They see the habitat as an indication that there should be the expected flora or fauna there. It happened with the finches and with gum trees over the Dividing Range. The habitat was there for the trees, but the land had been cleared of trees long ago.

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