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Adani Will Not Go Ahead

Speeches in Parliament
Andrew Bartlett 30 Nov 2017

Much has been said about the result of the Queensland state election last weekend—many times in this chamber and of course in many other places in my home state of Queensland. As with any election, there are many issues involved in shaping the votes of the millions of Queenslanders across that state. But, certainly, key amongst those issues is the Adani Carmichael mine. It is, of course, a mine that, if allowed to proceed, would enable the burning of an enormous amount of coal and the emitting of an enormous amount of fossil fuel emissions into the atmosphere at a time when we need to be exploring every opportunity not only to slow down but to reverse the level of greenhouse emissions going into our atmosphere.

But I think that, even more widely than that, what's shaped the views of Queenslanders about that mine and about the policy decisions of all the various parties regarding it has been the very strong sense—and this applies to people in northern Queensland, who I have spoken to, just as much as those in southern or western Queensland—that this is a case of a foreign corporation that's a big donor to both the establishment political parties getting precedence over the needs of the community. Whether its the free access to a whole lot of groundwater that should be available for farmers in the region, the delay in Adani being required to pay royalty payments that it got, the continuing argument over whether they'll be able to get access to a billion-dollar loan from the Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility, or even the fact that this project was given special status by the current Labor government that enabled it to circumvent a whole lot of the normal planning and legal processes that significant projects normally have to go through for the public to be confident that this is actually meeting the sorts of rules that everybody else has to comply with, people feel that there's something dodgy here. And that feeling is very much right.

This was confirmed again just today when we saw the news that Adani has hired the services of a lobbyist firm called Govstrat which has key players from both the Liberal National Party and the Labor Party in Queensland. It's another classic case of the revolving door in politics, with politicians and ministers on one side going through that revolving door and putting on their lobbyist hat the next minute. There are many, many examples, many of which have been outlined in this place.

We've spent a lot of today, in question time and before and after it, talking about the recognition of how major donations corrupt political decisions. We've heard all the debates today about Senator Dastyari and the huge donations that he got from a person of concern in regard to foreign influence. We've heard the same in regard to major donations from foreign donors to the Liberal Party. Adani is another major foreign corporation that is providing huge donations to both of the old establishment parties. Alongside that is the way they use the revolving door of ex-politicians and well-connected figures from both the establishment parties to use that lobbying power to bend political decisions in a way that meets the interests of the corporations rather than the interests of the community.

The lobbying firm Govstrat is run by a former treasurer of the Labor Party in Queensland. Its principal lobbyist is a former National Party Premier of Queensland. It employs a former chief of staff of Bill Shorten. It employs a former chief of staff of the former Deputy Premier under the Newman government, Jeff Seeney. It was retained by the Star Entertainment Group, which is a major lobbyist for the casino project in the centre of Brisbane. That project is another that clearly smells dodgy to many people in Brisbane. It involves 10 per cent of Brisbane's CBD. Public land in the CBD—an area where there is a high need to retain public land for green space, open space and publicly accessible land that has not been commercialised—would be handed over to a major casino lobbyist. The same lobbyist group has also worked for many other resource companies and companies in the gambling industry, and that is the firm that Adani is now seeking to use to continue its efforts to establish that mine, that massive carbon bomb, in Queensland.

It needs to be said time and time again that that mine is only one of a number of new thermal coal mines that are being proposed in the Galilee Basin. The Adani mine itself is the biggest thermal coal mine in the Southern Hemisphere, or will be if it is allowed to go ahead. The entire Galilee Basin is really a gigantic carbon bomb on a global scale, which these mining corporations are seeking to employ every avenue to open up, and one of the key avenues they are using is the power of money, of big donations and of the revolving door of lobbyists subverting, distorting and corrupting the policymaking decisions of the two establishment parties, whoever is in government.

What seems clear to me after the state election is that Adani are more spooked than ever because they know a record number of people voted for the Greens in the state election. Ten per cent of Queenslanders across the state have voted for the Greens—record numbers. We have the real prospect of the Greens making a breakthrough and winning a seat in parliament, which is historic in the sense that it's in a state where there is no upper house to provide a platform for a party to build representation first. Adani is clearly spooked not just by the Greens' success as a political party but by the massive social movement across the state.

I want to emphasise this again, because there's been this myth that the opposition to Adani is only in South-East Queensland or only in Brisbane. I've spoken to plenty of people—some of them are very visible, and some of them are not so visible but are certainly just as strong in their views—in the north of Queensland and in Central Queensland who also recognise that the Adani Carmichael mine project is a con and is economically disastrous for Queensland as well as environmentally disastrous when there are so many other economic opportunities that could deliver jobs for that region. And they also recognise that it is a company getting special favours because of the donations, because of the links to the lobbyists that are part of that revolving door between the lobbying firms and the two establishment parties.

It is a reminder that we need to pursue, and the Greens will certainly continue to pursue in Queensland and here in the federal parliament, the need for comprehensive reform of donations—that is, not just banning donations from foreign entities to political parties although that certainly needs to be done; we need to be banning all corporate donations. We need to be at a minimum employing the New South Wales model of banning money from gambling interests, from property developers and from the alcohol lobby. We need to be putting a cap on election campaign expenditure, putting a cap on the size of individual donations to all political parties. Those are the reforms that need to happen to really reduce and eliminate the influence of big money on political decisions. We need to be putting a proper ban on cash-for-access dinners. We feed to be putting a proper ban on people being able to move straight from senior ministerial positions into major lobby firms and going back in and using those contacts to distort the decision-making process on such crucial projects.

I also want to say to the Adani company: you can employ whatever lobbyists you like, you can spend whatever money you like, you can donate whatever you like to the two established political parties, but that mine will not go ahead. The people of Queensland in their hundreds and thousands, the movements across the state, will do what is necessary to continue to build that public momentum to stop that mine. There may be, and we hope there is, a Green in that state parliament, as there is one Green from Queensland in this federal parliament. But on this issue, we are a voice in those parliaments for hundreds of thousands of Queenslanders and many others around Australia who recognise that the Adani mine is a disaster that must not be allowed to go ahead. So my advice to Adani is: save your money, give it up because you will not succeed on this. If you think the movement is big now, you have seen nothing yet. It will stop that mine, so just give it up now and recognise that that mine shouldn't go ahead.

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