Adani’s moment of truth

The political campaign against Adani’s Carmichael mine has failed. That’s a big shift from the last Queensland state election, where the state government gained support in the south-east and held on to it in North Queensland. Obviously, Bob Brown’s convoy was counter-productive, perhaps disastrously so, and this failure will undermine any future direct action campaign in the region.

Given the election outcome, the approvals made by the Federal government will stay in place, and the Queensland state government is under immense (I would judge irresistible) pressure to expedite the remaining processes.

But we have been here before. Most of the approvals[1] needed to begin work were completed in 2016, at a time when both the Queensland and Federal governments were highly supportive (Anna Palaszczuk cut the ribbon at the opening of Adani’s Townsville regional HQ in 2017). At the time, I wrote

In summary, we appear likely to find out what happens when a dog catches the car it has been chasing. Adani and its backers have been denouncing green tape and “lawfare” as the only obstacles to the bonanza they have on offer. Now, the legal and administrative obstacles are gone, so they have only to line up the money, rehire the contractors and announce the starting date. My guess is that this will never happen.

That’s still my guess, three years later. The economics of the scaled down project still don’t stack up, and the problems with finance and contractors are even greater now than in 2016. However, there’s nothing more I can do to influence the outcome, so we will just have to wait and see.

Update: I meant to add that, if the project does go ahead, it will almost certainly involve a substantial injection of public money, which will not be recovered. Adani has plenty of form in this respect.

fn1. Obviously, not all of them. But if Adani had wanted to start work in 2016, they could have done so, and, given bipartisan political support, would certainly have found a way to deal with any remaining clearances. In fact, they announced they would be starting work then, and reannounced it in 2017.

45 thoughts on “Adani’s moment of truth

  1. Smith9 May 21, 2019 at 10:38 am says: “To this you can add the effect of Saint Bob riding into town and giving them a sermon.”

    Nope. It is down to a totally crap Labor campaign there, over the last couple of years at least, and to the local CFMEU campaign of undermining Labor. Will the CFMEU bring down a workchoices clone on itself and all other workers as it did in 2004 in Tasmania? We’ll see.

  2. Paul Norton says May 20, 2019 at 2:06 pm johnquiggin.com/2019/05/20/adanis-moment-of-truth/comment-page-1/#comment-210646 – “The historical comparison is with the vote to re-elect the Howard government in 2004 by residents of northern Tasmania in the belief that the Gunns Bell Bay pulp mill would be their economic salvation.”

    Jon Brodie says May 21, 2019 at 10:18 am johnquiggin.com/2019/05/20/adanis-moment-of-truth/comment-page-1/#comment-210699 – “The issue is not just about Adani but the Greens and greens campaign against coal in general … Bob Brown’s convoy was a final straw and an important factor why Labor lost the election.”

    Yes.

    And no.

    https://www.abc.net.au/radionational/programs/drive/did-adani-lose-labor-the-election/11131516
    RN Drive
    Monday 20 May 2019 6:35PM
    Guest: Bob Brown, former Greens leader
    Did Adani lose Labor the election?

    Some in Labor are pointing the finger for Saturday night’s loss at former Greens leader Bob Brown.
    Brown led an anti-Adani coalmine convoy into Queensland, a state where Labor performed particularly badly.

    Bob Brown 5:31 – ” Ah, look if Labor had done the right thing it would have – ah, it’s had six or eight years to tackle this issue – it would have said we’re not going ahead with the Adani mine, But here’s the hundred thousand jobs we’ll create in the region as we move towards the renewable future. And it’s going to make people safe and secure in the future instead of being at the behest of largely foreign owned corporations which have no trouble in sacking thousands of miners if there’s an economic downturn, Patricia. Ah, no!

    6:05 And let’s bring the CFMEU in here.

    6:08 It tried to get all Labor people in Queensland to sign a pledge to be pro Adani when that wasn’t what Bill Shorten was saying. And so they made Labor look like a rabble. But they also helped elect Scott Morrison as they helped elect John Howard over the logging issue, red flags flying on the stage with him in the Albert Hall in Launceston in 2004, and then they got Work Choices and an inquiry into their own union.

    6:36 Well, let the CFMEU take responsibility now for the anti-worker moves that we’ll see from this government in the next three years. They’ve done it again!

    Patricia Karvelas 6:49 – So you think it’s the same as that moment that you just mentioned, that historical moment, that was the 2004 election?

    BB 6:54 – Yeah, I think the mining component of the CFMEU in Queensland made Labor look like a rabble, and the votes just deserted from it. If Labor had either been backed up by them, if Bill Shorten had of had their backing, instead of this extraordinary demand, public demand, that all Labor members sign a pledge to say they wouldn’t stop the mine – in other words they would endorse Scott Morisson’s point of view – ah, you know, Labor would have done much better without that. It was a real downer, you know, obviously it made Labor look like a rabble.

    7:33 The CFMEU, on this occasion the mining component of the CFMEU, absolutely pulled the rug from under Bill Shorten when they did that.

    PK 7:42 – This was meant to be the climate change election, but if you look at the results it doesn’t really look like it, does it?

    BB 7:46 – Well if you look at what happened to Tony Abbott it certainly does look like it.

    PK 7:49 – That’s one seat, though.

    BB 7:53 – Well, there’s the former prime minister, but with Zali Stegel and others campaigning on climate change. The same in Indi. The same in Melbourne. The same for the Queensland Senate as far as Larissa waters is concerned, and over there in South Australia, Sarah Hanson Young.

    8:09 Where we had prominent politicians campaigning on climate change, they won.

    8:18 Where we had them falaffling around in the middle, and not knowing, not allowing people to know what their actual policies were, they lost.

    8:25 And it’s a very clear lesson on climate change.

    8:28 We’ve got to have people who mean what they say, and say what they mean, and are gonna keep that commitment.

    8:33 And I note that a couple of those independents say that they’ll be generally inclined toward supporting the Morrison government, but not at the expense of their wish to, and their promise to the electorate, to keep climate change at the forefront. And that means of course opposing the Adani mine amongst other things.

    8:55 But there’s the integrity for you, there’s the way to campaign, and if we’d had had Labor at the forefront of the campaign in much stronger terms beginning with “we will stop Adani because of it’s threat to the reef and the Murray-Darling basin, and to jobs right across Australia” I think there’d of been a different outcome on Saturday night.” – 9:15.

    https://www.abc.net.au/radionational/programs/breakfast/labor-lost-due-to-unclear-plan-to-transition-from-coal/11132654
    RN Breakfast
    Tuesday 21 May 2019 6:50AM
    Guest: Senator Richard Di Natale, Leader, Australian Greens

    Labor lacked clear plan to transition from coal, Di Natale says

    While Labor is on the hunt for a new leader and a new direction, the Greens are far happier with their campaign, with all six Senators up for re-election set to hold their spots giving the Party nine Senate seats.
    The Greens have also held on to their lower House seat of Melbourne, although their other ambitions were dashed, with high profile campaigns in Higgins and Kooyong failing to pay off.
    And the broader election results suggest Australians are divided on the question of climate change.

  3. Yes the Greens did quite well for themselves, and their presence in the Senate will be positive, however they also helped the Coalition stay in power. Overall for the environment (and specifically for the Great Barrier Reef) that is a disaster for Australia. As I siad above the issue was not about Labor and the Greens being against Adani but seemingly against ALL coal mining and export (both coking and thermal) and sometimes seeming to be against all mining in general, including for metals etc. As you can imagine this plays out like bomb across Queensland and WA to some extent as well.

  4. Sorry note the comment at 1.54 was actually from me Jon Brodie. Not sure how it got to be Anon.

  5. Anon, I think you imagine that. I cant. Well, that is to say I can but know it is imagination. I think your “seemingly” bells the cat. I didn’t imagine the crap campaigns of Labor and the CFMEU backing the LNP. That happened for real and consistently over a lengthy period.

  6. @Paul Norton:

    I know this and mentioned it in my third paragraph.

    The Coalition very clearly lost Warringah over climate change. Significantly, the loss shows that pro-climate-action seats in which climate change is of vote-bearing significance are not all already holed up with well-matched parties or representatives.

    Labor’s loss of Herbert is more complex—the scale of the loss can be attributed to the issue, but the loss would have occurred even if the swing against Labor had matched the national average, let alone that which prevailed in SEQ.

    Electoral realities add complexity but they are not overwhelming and are not all one-way.

  7. @Smith9:

    Any New Farm (and other northside inner-Brisbane) activists are currently represented by the Coalition, in a seat, Brisbane, in which both the Coalition and Labor lost ground to the Greens, and where Labor is in danger of slipping into third place. One of only a handful of Queensland seats to shift in favour of Labor on a two-party-preferred basis, it is now the fourth-most marginal LNP seat in Queensland. It is the second-most left-leaning LNP-held seat in Queensland behind Warren Entsch’s Leichhardt in Far North Queensland, which also swung towards Labor (albeit very slightly) and is now the LNP’s second-most marginal Queensland seat.

    These seats would appear to me to offer more realistic future possibilities for Labor than trying to capture or recapture the previously marginal seats of Adani country which, being generally amongst the country’s most right-leaning, were never particularly suitable objects of desire.

  8. J-D I think the fact that the COALition won 14 to 15 seats out of a possible 38 seats in Victoria says it all.

    No, obviously it doesn’t say it all. I suppose it must say something, but I can’t figure out what it is that you think it says. It certainly doesn’t explain why you wrote the things you did about western Sydney.

  9. “These seats would appear to me to offer more realistic future possibilities for Labor”

    Not if Labor says it’s going to increase taxes on high income earners and rhetorically says they are all crooks (“the big end of town”).

    And that was Labor’s problem. Most of the people who say they are concerned with climate change, the kind of people who elected Zali Steggall and who nearly unelected Josh Frydenberg, had the most to lose from Labor’s tax policies. And the kind of people who are least concerned about climate change, or who give it low priority, in north and central Queensland, had two reasons not to vote Labor – its two bob each way stance on coal (which convinced nobody, anywhere) and Labor’s tax policies. Coal miners are paid very well. A lot of them probably negatively gear multiple investment properties and have extensive share portfolios.

  10. “Not if Labor says it’s going to increase taxes on high income earners and rhetorically says they are all crooks (“the big end of town”).”

    It was electorates with few high-income individuals which swung against Labor, not those with a larger share of high-income individuals:

  11. Annastacia Palaszczuk has today more or less endorsed the mine, by saying she is fed up with the time taken for the approval processes.

    That didn’t take long, but her mind was doubtless concentrated by a Labor primary vote in Queensland that started with a 2.

    I suspect the Queensland public servants – at least those that want to stay employed – who are involved in the processes will hear her loud and clear.

  12. I wonder how many wavering LNP supporters on the Gold and Sunshine Coasts—who constitute Labor’s only real hope of getting re-elected given losses already guaranteed in Adani country—will be convinced by Labor promises that they’d go into opposition rather than try to form minority government with the Greens, as Labor’s pitch to them is sidelined by media coverage of Green campaigns to unseat a swag of Cabinet ministers in inner Brisbane.

  13. Luke Elford

    There’s things Labor can do to hold off the Greens in the inner city, like throw infinite sums at renewable subsidies. It probably won’t work given the sheer symbolism of the mine, but they can try.

  14. From today’s AFR

    “Adani’s flagship solar power project in Queensland has been complete for six months but is still not feeding electricity into the grid, a stark illustration of the chronic connection problems that have slowed the country’s influx of renewables into the supply system.

    The 65-megawatt Rugby Run solar farm in central Queensland was finished by November and was due to come online soon after as part of the Indian mining giant’s strategy to widen its portfolio beyond the controversial Carmichael coal mine.”

    Now, that is ironic.

  15. I think that the problem with Adani is that they have complied with all the regulations therefore are not guilty of many of the epithets thrown at them.

    What is needed is a legal challenge to their activity, I don’t know what grounds you could base it on, perhaps the potential to create further pollution? Nup – wouldn’t last 5 minutes.

    There is a considerable lead time before they start mining the stuff, there is every likelihood that the market for steaming coal could collapse in the interim. In that case any losses would be born by the operator.

  16. In today’s news, it looks like it will soon be go go go, at least as far as state approval processes go.

    “Given the election outcome, the approvals made by the Federal government will stay in place, and the Queensland state government is under immense (I would judge irresistible) pressure to expedite the remaining processes.”

    This was highly prescient (though I suppose you didn’t have to be Nostradamus).

    And with all due acknowledgement to Dinah Washington, this should be the epitaph to Bob “Convoy” Brown’s career.

    What a difference an election makes
    Primary vote in the toilet
    Where there used to barriers
    Now there’s Premier kissing

    My yesterday was blue, dear
    Today I’m a part of you, dear
    My lonely nights are through, dear
    Since you said you were [Carmichael] mine

  17. Smith9 – “this should be the epitaph to Bob “Convoy” Brown’s career.”

    Epitaph? Citizen Bob is only getting started, and against the pundits’ predictions he delivered a swing to the Greens. Anyway Bob Brown is an immortal.

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