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 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”
Clive Palmer also has significant coal interests in the Galilee Basin
“the Queensland state government is under immense (I would judge irresistible) pressure to expedite the remaining processes.”
The Queensland election is next year. It’s a race against time for Palaszczuk. If she has to sacrifice Jackie Trad, she will do it in a heart beat.
That is why the ALP wil rise in the next election. All those mugs who thought Adani was the answer to their dreams will be bitterly disappointed.
although to be fair Adani wil stil be offering excuses and so perhaps they will still be wood-ducks sorry supporters
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. It was clear not too long afterwards that the pulp mill was likely to fall over due to a lack of a global market for its product. Yet through various stages the project remained in an officially undead (or unburied) condition, and when I visited Beauty Point in December 2011 the tax driver I rode with spoke hopefully about “the pulp mill we might be getting”. I have a hunch that in 2026 taxi drivers in Townsville might be telling visitors about “the coal mine we might be getting”. Nonetheless the willingness of people in these depressed regions to cling to the hope of economic salvation from the big project long after rational grounds for such hopes have evaporated is something that has political consequences.
If the economics of Adani don’t stack up why are you so concerned with it? Do you really think governments in Australia would subsidize a commercially non-viable project? Will Adani proceed if they are to make losses? Maybe I missed an earlier post but I am genuinely puzzled.
The worrying thing is that, as we have seen in northern Tasmania, if environmentally destructive and economically dodgy projects can’t be halted through the political process but are then destined to wither on the vine by changing markets while retaining a zombie existence for several years (in the Bells Bay case it was 13 years between the 2004 election and when permits for the proposed building lapsed and the project officially died), it becomes very hard to move forward to a just transition as long as people are hanging on in hope for the project to eventually come to life.
“Do you really think governments in Australia would subsidize a commercially non-viable project?”
The Ord River scheme says hello. So does the Adelaide to Darwin railway. So does the inland railway, currently being built. So, probably, will Snowy II.
Adani has already extracted tax holidays, promises of a free airport and more. The last Qld election turned on the idea that the project would get (IIRC) $900 million from the NAIF slush fund. I’ve updated the post to reflect this.
Stupendous amounts of public money.
Clearly we’re stuck in a denialist rut. Why not literally set the Galilee Basin on fire so we can move forward to the blind panic stage of a global catastrophe.
Adani was never about the coal. For the company it was about getting corporate welfare. For the LNP, the main point of the Adani project was to be a political wedge. The LNP were quite happy to contemplate spending $900 million of public money to wedge Labor from the mining unions and wedge country Qld from city Qld. To them that was a deal well worth it. $900 million of public money (not their money) to wedge opponents and put themselves into government. It’s always a bargain when you can win power with other people’s money.
In the event, the LNP needed to spend far less public money than that. The protracted battle was wholly worth it to them and they had no interest in shortening it. It kept the issue in the public eye non-stop. The LNP did not want a resolution before the election and now they have power they don’t care about a resolution. However, if it drags on another two years, they will be quite happy then to drag it on to three years and make a wedge issue of it once again.
What we have been seeing over the past 50 years seems to validate Robert Michels’ theory of “The Iron Law of Oligarchy”. That topic belongs in the Sandpit I guess.
It wouldn’t surprise if Palaszczuk puts the $900 million back on the table. It’s not even coming out of her budget, so why not? Circumstances have changed, blah blah blah.
John, My understanding was that the request for a $900m concessional loan (not a grant) from the Feds for a rall line was knocked back by the Feds and opposed by the Queensland Government. Has that changed recently?
Tax holidays are fine but you still need to be making money even with a holiday.
If they are not getting public support other than an airport why concern? The project does seem to have limited appeal to the Queensland Government. I think most pollies question the economics.
the loan wasn’t “knocked back” by the Feds. They wanted to make the loan but constitutionally it had to be approved by the Queensland government, which it didn’t.
The link I provide said the Feds knocked it back and the Queensland Premier asked them to do so. Regardless Adani didn’t get it and I thought the inference was that they. What did they get? What have they been promised?
JQ – “The political campaign against Adani’s Carmichael mine has failed.”
What, the Greens’ election campaign and that of their grass roots supporters and voters?
Any other major political party did not have a campaign against Adani’s Carmichael mine.
“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.”
Last Queensland state election, the Labor government didn’t switch to campaign against Adani it merely passed on passing on the Feds’ NAIF loan at the eleventh hour. It won by winning in Townsville by setting up the Townsville Labor mayor, again at the eleventh hour, with a voting ratepayer backlash against Council’s agreement to handsomely fund construction of an Adani airport well outside the city. That was a shrewd play by Queensland Labor in wedging those rate paying voters. If they wanted to have the funds employed in Townsville they had to vote state Labor to block city Labor.
In the south-east State Labor lost one seat and near lost another, their Deputy Premier’s seat, to the Greens over Labor’s Adani stance.
My view is that the COALition will stump up taxpayer money to get Adani off the ground and use taxpayer money to finance new coal-fired power plants around the country. I am really hating Queensland at the moment. Why does the great state of Victoria have to be dragged down by these flat earthers from Tasmania, Queensland, Western Australia and Western Sydney -people who hate the environment and are motivated by their own self-interest. Yes there are good people in these parts, just as there are bad people in Victoria. But perhaps if Victoria secedes from the Federation, the good people will drain into Victoria? I already know heaps of people from WA, QLD, Tas and even western Sydney who have fled their own benighted lands for the urbanity of Victoria. Even regional cities like Bendigo, Ballarat and Geelong swung to Labor. I swear once you cross the Murray river, people get weirder and weirder (and the same for crossing Bass Strait). Too bad all the other states have neutered Victoria by stripping us of our once proud manufacturing industries.
Maybe it will turn out to be the problem the Coalition was hoping it wouldn’t have to deal with. I expect that they will come under a fair bit of pressure to clarify investment settings for renewables, and probably under trade pressure from various countries, not least China, who will I assume impose clean-up costs on coal imports (thereby reducing further the financial viability of Adani or any other coal mines), increasingly so as their own alternative sources of energy expand. So that rather than Labour having to deal with this wicked problem (regional unemployment v destroying the planet), it might fall into the deserving lap of the miracle worker.
“Why does the great state of Victoria have to be dragged down by these flat earthers from Tasmania, Queensland, Western Australia and Western Sydney -people who hate the environment and are motivated by their own self-interest.”
This is a gross mischaracterisation of public opinion. Opposition to new coal mines, and in particular to the Adani mine, is entrenched and widespread. Vote Compass asked specifically about the Adani mine and found that, nationally, only 20% thought it should be built, with 61% opposed.
Support is unsurprisingly higher in Queensland, but it is only outside south-east Queensland that there is more support than opposition, and even there the balance in favour of Adani is pretty marginal. In SEQ, 30% are in favour and 53% are opposed; in regional Queensland, the figures are 45% and 41%. With about two-thirds of Queensland voters in SEQ, overall around 35% would be in favour and 49% opposed. I know that the accuracy of polling is under question, given the mismatch between consistent poll results and the election outcome, but the errors would need to be implausibly high to alter the broad picture of public opinion on coal mining.
It reminds me of the same sex marriage debate, in which politicians refused to support a position which had clear public support for some years. Perhaps it is sensible politics, given the peculiar proclivities of swing voters or the concentration of support in crucial seats. Or perhaps it is politicians being clueless. Personally, I’m sceptical of the idea that the car crash outcome for Labor in SEQ has much to do with Adani; Labor’s performance in the rest of the state was certainly worse (and less of the loss in Labor’s primary vote reflected growth in support for the Greens) but not to an extreme degree.
“Too bad all the other states have neutered Victoria by stripping us of our once proud manufacturing industries.”
Many might find such an attitude hypocritical. I’ll simply note that the history of tariff reduction in Australia (which of course is only part of the story in the long-run decline of manufacturing) is an obvious counterargument to the idea that policy changes which essentially kill off certain industries, with substantial implications for the demand for labour at a regional level, are politically impossible.
Luke Elford, the figures you cite about the numbers of Australians for and against the Carmichael mine are undoubtedly correct. The trouble is that, when it comes to voting in elections, what also matters is how voters with views for and against something are distributed among different electoral districts, and how much of a stake (including an emotional stake) they have in the issue.
The issue is not just about Adani but the Greens and greens campaign against coal in general, coking as well as thermal. Labor is sucked into this somewhat unwillingly or by association as well. This is what put off all the voters anywhere in the vicinity of the Queensland coalfields (much of the state) and probably in NSW as well. Bob Brown’s convoy was a final straw and an important factor why Labor lost the election. Coking coal (essentail for making steel and some other metals) makes up more than half the value of Australia’s coal exports but even coking coal miners feel threatened by the Greens campaign against ALL coal.
Before the election the Coalition held three out of fourteen seats in western Sydney. In this election they gained definitely one additional seat and the result in another one is still uncertain, so in the new Parliament they’ll have four or five out of those fourteen seats.
In Victoria the Coalition have definitely won fourteen out of thirty-eight seats, and probably a fifteenth where the result is close.
Fourteen out of thirty-eight is a bigger fraction than five out of fourteen. The Coalition won a bigger fraction of the seats in Victoria than it did of the seats in western Sydney.
Australians know about climate change and are worried about it, a little. However, the election results make it clear that they are less worried about it than about keeping their middle class welfare cushion of franking credits, negative gearing, low taxes on superannuation and so on. When it comes to climate change, they vaguely know about it but don’t care nearly enough. Their narrow, short-term self-interests are far more important to them.
Australian politics will not change until one of two things happens. Either climate change and related environmental problems will begin to bring massive economic and social pain to the broad masses of people or else overseas nations who care more (by suffering negative effects earlier) will bring massive economic and social pain to Australians for our recalcitrance, most likely in the form of severe economic sanctions.
The modern political economy, namely late stage corporate, crony, kleptocratic capitalism, has shown that it is completely incapable of making the needed preemptive changes signaled by science as being absolutely necessary . Our system is unresponsive to the early warning signals from science. Like a drunken driver we are very slow in putting the brakes on. Indeed we are still accelerating towards that imminent collision with the brick wall of reality. For various reasons, revolutionary preemptive change has proved impossible. Now we will crash and will have to see who if anyone crawls out of the wreck and how they might or might not survive afterwards. Naturally, few of us will see the full aftermath.
Humans are not really to blame for this. They are not evolutionarily fitted to deal with distant, global dangers but only fitted to deal with close, immediate dangers. It is possible to educate people to be better at discerning distant and global dangers but the elites who run the capitalist system prefer keeping the masses, even the middle class masses, relatively uneducated except in the technical fields required for production and indeed for production in a certain way and in no other way. This means over-production plus stimulation of over-consumption. The current economic system cannot function without over-production and over-consumption. These are with respect to basic human needs and indeed health and also with respect to the environment’s capacity to sustain production. At the same time, other forms of production are stifled. The production of more health, welfare and education (relatively less resource intensive) is stifled in favor of excess consumer objects, security machinery and war machinery (relatively moreresource intensive).
The best we can do is understand all this and philosophically come to terms with it. Humans can’t change themselves. They will have to be changed from the outside by the evolutionary forces of nature… or else go extinct.
“what also matters is how voters with views for and against something are distributed among different electoral districts, and how much of a stake (including an emotional stake) they have in the issue.”
Exactly right. It might well be accurate that 61% of people are against this mine being built, but doesn’t mean they are going to die in a ditch over it and it certainly doesn’t mean they are going to base their vote on it. (The activists in Newtown and New Farm and Brunswick are going to die in a ditch over it, but they are a small and unrepresentative slice of the country. Anthony Albanese, who has represented such people in the federal parliament for nearly a quarter of a century, understands this very well.)
On the other hand, the people who think their ability to put food on the table depends on the mine being built are more likely to base their vote on it. To this you can add the effect of Saint Bob riding into town and giving them a sermon. This was bound to create a reaction of the kind, “don’t get in the near queue, get in the other one”.
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. Of course I am being facetious when I am saying Victoria should leave the Commonwealth. It’s a nice idea, but it’s never going to happen. Unfortunately the “Athens of the Antipodes” will remain under the jackboot of QLD/NSW obscurantism. I do wonder if Daniel Andrews would be successful if he were running for premier in one of the other states? I suspect his decency, his humanity only appeals to Victorian sensitivities. Historically Victoria was considered the jewel in the Liberal Crown and was a stronghold for Menzies and the DLP. NSW was very much Labor’s stronghold. I suspect the Carr government poisoned the Labor brand for a generation. Having Kristina Keneally, such a prominent figure in that government, front and centre during the campaign was hardly a sign to the people of NSW that’s Labor had redeemed itself. I don’t think Bill was a great leader in that sense either. He was so implicated in the Rudd-Gillard-Rudd fiasco and epitomised Labor’s “faceless men” problem (the current LNP is so bereft of ideas that they have to borrow attack lines from the 1960s). Bill could not attack the way the miracle worker came to power because he was so involved in plotting the the downfall of Rudd-Gillard-Rudd. As Lady McBeth learned, you can wash away the blood.
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.
is it twenty five thousand jobs that are tied to the reef tourist industry?
May, I think it is in the order of 60,000 jobs.
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 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.
Sorry note the comment at 1.54 was actually from me Jon Brodie. Not sure how it got to be Anon.
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.
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.
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.
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.
“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.
“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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
Eternal, perhaps, but not immortal.