Adani casts a long shadow over Batman

Bill Shorten probably knows Labor can’t win the byelection in the Melbourne seat Batman while supporting the far-away Adani coal mining project at Carmichael in the Galilee Basin in central Queensland. So he looks set to oppose the mine.

However, Queensland LNP senators Matt Canavan and Ian Macdonald and Capricornia MP Michelle Landry have invited Shorten to come to Townsville to explain his position there, and ultimately that is what he must do.

The Greens can afford to take the principled high ground because they have nothing to lose politically and everything to gain. For them the path is, in the main, to take inner city seats, one by one to be able to leverage power in the lower house. If the Greens play their political cards right they can aspire to 5-10 inner-urban seats in the big cities without having to worry about how to win over the battlers. Antony Green tells how the creeping demographics of inner Melbourne make the Greens success there seem inevitable.

    Waves of ‘gentrification’ have changed the face of inner-city electorates where the population was once predominantly working class and significantly overseas born.

So with gentrification:

    The new residents moving into inner-city seats are overwhelmingly university educated, professionally employed, non-religious and affluent.

Green says:

    Labor’s first preference vote share has declined nine percentage points across Victoria since Labor’s victory at the 2007 Federal election. Around half of that vote has been lost to the Greens.

Much of that story relates to inner Melbourne, where:

    Labor’s first preference vote share has fallen 25 percentage points in Melbourne, 26 in Wills, 22 in Batman, 15 in more marginal Melbourne Ports, and even 16 percentage points in Liberal held Higgins.

In 2016 David Feeney scraped in on Liberal preferences by 1.03% in a seat that once was a Labor stronghold.

Calla Wahlquist at The Guardian, in an excellent article, points out that Bell Street cuts Batman in two, with gentrification to the south and working class remnant to the north.

The Liberals in recent elections have preferenced Labor over the Greens. Wahlquist related what they are up to this time:

    The Victorian Liberals are under pressure from the Jewish lobby to block the Greens because of the latter’s support for Palestine, and have not yet declared whether they will run a candidate. It’s a “dilemma,” Victorian Liberal president Michael Kroger said: run and preference Labor to keep out an unsuitable Green; or quit the field, as they did at the Northcote state byelection, to increase the chance that the Greens would win and weaken Labor’s position in parliament.

That was published last Saturday. Since then the Liberals have chosen to skip the byelection, save their money and hope to maximise Shorten’s pain.

Choosing Jed Kearney shows how seriously Labor wants to stop the green wave:

    According to David Hayward, the dean of global, urban and social studies at RMIT University, Ged Kearney’s nomination is a measure of the seriousness of the seat for Labor. The Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) president’s left-leaning position replaces Feeney’s factional weight in the party’s right.

    “Having somebody like Ged Kearney could be a very good card to play in that context because she’ll be able to appeal to both sides of the divide,” Hayward said. “She’ll be able to play well [in the northern half of the electorate] and I think she’ll also be able to play well at the southern end of the electorate, being able to talk up Green-type issues.”

Her early career as a nurse helps, as does the fact that she lived in the electorate.

Richard Di Natali has made it clear that Adani will be front and centre in the campaign, which he can do without any political downside, and without the prospect of having to implement his promise.

Shorten has given at least four reasons for his newly announced concern about Adani. Firstly, the market price of coal suggests that the world does not need the coal.

Secondly, two years of coral bleaching have shown that the Reef is already in trouble.

Third, Shorten has raised concerns that the development of the Adani mine will cost jobs elsewhere.

Finally, according to The Guardian Adani submitted an altered laboratory report while appealing a fine for contamination of sensitive wetlands on the Queensland coast near the Great Barrier Reef. This would provide a convenient mechanism to question Adani’s fitness as a company.

Other than that a Labor rejection of Adani would indeed raise the issue of sovereign risk, where a company’s hard-won approvals suddenly mean nothing when it is politically convenient.

There is a principled way that Shorten could withdraw the Adani approvals without relying on Adani’s misdemeanor. Shorten could upgrade the whole climate mitigation issue, giving it the urgency that has been clearly required a decade ago or more (remember Kevin 07?) This should mean that expansion of coal mining anywhere in Australia would be denied.

I don’t think that Labor is quite brave enough for that, and I’m not sure they would be elected if they tried.

Meanwhile it is disappointing that no-one in politics or the media is challenging the LNP’s spruiking of jobs flowing from the Adani venture. In the earlier guest post The Adani Project: – is it good for Australia? Geoff Henderson pointed out that Adani’s had promised was 10,000 jobs, but under oath revised that back to just 1460 jobs.

Nevertheless, Dennis Atkins in the Courier Mail today reminds us that Queenslanders don’t like being told by southerners what they must do. Same applies to regional people and inner urbanites. There is also a similar attitude between north and south in Queensland, where Brisbane is another country.

Fairfax today reports that Labor are working on a regional jobs policy package:

    A Queensland Labor MP told Fairfax Media that jobs in renewable energy, manufacturing, defence maintenance and tourism could be created in place of the foregone mining jobs.

However, in terms of changing votes, policy will not win the day when so much emotion is involved. All this over a mine, which left to its own devices is probably not a starter.

21 thoughts on “Adani casts a long shadow over Batman”

  1. Brian,

    Meanwhile it is disappointing that no-one in politics or the media is challenging the LNP’s spruiking of jobs flowing from the Adani venture.

    No-one in politics? The Greens are against it –see here. The Labor Palaszczuk Queensland government had said they will block the NAIF funding during the recent election campaign – see the post THE ADANI PROJECT: – IS IT GOOD FOR AUSTRALIA? which included a link to Nov 4 ABC News online article Adani: Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk withdraws Government involvement in mine funding.

    Or the media? Do you mean the right wing media? I have no doubts that Murdoch media (e.g. The Australian, Daily Telegraph, etc.) and the Macquarie Network (e.g. radio 2GB, etc.) are pro Adani Carmichael mine, ignoring the inconvenient truths. But the ABC Four Corners Digging into Adani programme aired on October 2, I thought was pretty damning.

    Then there are various groups like IEEFA, etc. who have been highly critical.

    Perhaps you are correct, that the Greens, Queensland Labor, ABC, IEEFA, etc. have not expressly challenged the inflated job numbers being spruiked by LNP, but there’s a growing chorus of people saying it’s not financially viable, and if it’s not financially viable, then there won’t be the jobs flowing from it as promised.

    On 11 August 2017, at the Senate inquiry into the governance and operation of the Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility (NAIF) public hearing in Canberra, Professor Thomas Clarke, from the UTS Business School, stated:

    “Undoubtedly, if the NAIF funds this Carmichael rail project, it will become renowned as the government-funded billion-dollar ghost train; a useless waste of tax-payers’ money to enrich a company, based in the Cayman Islands, which the Australian public will not forget, or forgive.”

  2. Graham, I said “is” meaning now. There have been a few mentions this morning since I published, but based on nonsense.

  3. Shorten has given at least four reasons for his newly announced concern about Adani.

    I heard him on the radio yesterday with another, something about missing all their deadline and not getting anything done.
    Maybe it was only played up here, it was one of the ABC channels.

  4. One other thing for Shorten to consider, with the next election in mind, is if he did dig his heals in to stop Carmichael, I don’t think ” jobs ” will be a big issue up here.
    The expectations for the next 12-18 months for, at least in construction, is very positive. Some are worried there’ll be a lack of Tradesmen to do the projects already on the books, rental availability is getting tighter to boot so building new homes will stretch the labour pool further again.
    If it does kick off now, the market may overheat savagely, pushing costs up and blowing out the projects budget.
    If it waits another 6 months they’ll have to get 457s to build it, ( not that Shorten has shown any objections to 457s, he loves em ) but that’s not something votes will vote too much for.

    The next Fed Election is at most 18 months away.

    ( the greens problem is easy to fix, but that’s for another thread 🙂 )

  5. Jumpy: Interesting comment about construction pick -up in your part of the woods.
    How much of big project construction do you reckon is is done by local workers?

  6. Brian: The Greens have consistently argued in favour of reducing the flow of fossil carbon into the atmosphere. The Adani thermal coal mega mine has become a symbol of what should not be happening.
    It is good to see that Shorten has finally realized that Adani is likely to take jobs and market from established Australian coal mines .

  7. My impression is that if you go up the Qld coast there is a series of economies. They are making a lot of noise in Townsville, which is where the Adani HQ is, and unemployment is high.

    Come a Federal election, though, it is not going to be decided in NQ unless it is very close.

  8. Reflecting on this today, I think Richard Di Natali is missing an opportunity to press the seriousness of climate change and the need for effort to kick up several notches in political thinking.

    He should be reminding us that NOAA research in December 2016 found that if current trends continue, by 2050 more than 98% of reefs world-wide are expected to be exposed to bleaching-level thermal stress in each year. (See Do we seriously want to save the Great Barrier Reef?)

    He has a rare opportunity, and so far he’s missing it.

  9. Hey John,
    I can’t give a definitive % but locals Companies have an advantage in that travel close to home is minimal and supplying secondary accomodation is unnecessary.

    I recon after the Com Games and unit boom on the Gold Coast are through, some Tradies could migrate up here but commuting isn’t financially feasible.

    Everybody want to work close to home and persuading them otherwise is expensive.

  10. I think I know what you mean Brian, for an environmental party they look focused on other things too much.

  11. The only difficulty I see with your advice to Richard Di Natale, Brian, is that there is no direct, causal limk between that mine and that reef.

    Not as clear cut as, say, pollution from pulp paper mill in Northern Tassie and local conditions; or loss of Lake Pedder; or damming the Franklin River.

    The CO2 emissions that could cook the reef are worldwide.

    Now phosphorus or silt runoff from nearby farms, that’s somewhat closer, causally.

    IMO the Adani/GBR story is like blaming a particular cyclone or a particular flood or a particular drought/bushfire on man-made global warming: strictly speaking, it’s not true. Perhaps Dr di Natale agrees with this suggestion, and doesn’t want to be accused of fibbing?

  12. Ambi, if the cause is indirect it is still a cause.

    Tonight I’ll try to dig out the Australia Institute study based on the Woods Mackenzie study, but I think the story, in brief, is that with Adani mining jobs in Qld will be about the same, but it will pretty much neuter the expansion of jobs in NSW.

    Also check out what Ben Eltham said:

    Carmichael illustrates what is broken in Australian politics, like few other issues. The planned mine is so large, it will materially affect the future of global warming. It will help destroy the Great Barrier Reef. As climate campaigner Bill McKibben wrote in 2016, “you can’t have both the Paris climate agreement and Adani’s Carmichael coalmine. Full stop.”

    (Emphasis added)

    Di Natali does not have to worry about telling lies, and he stands to lose nothing politically, unlike Shorten and Turnbull. If he has the brains to tell a fairly complex story (which he no doubt has) he should not pass up the opportunity to spell out the relationship with the whole coal industry, global warming and the future of the Reef, while people are listening and emotionally engaged.

  13. Yes indeed.
    The whole coal industry, petroleum fuels, emissions from farming and industries.

    Global emissions, global problem; local consequences.

  14. Good evening, Jumpy.

    Don’t know how far advanced work is on the next Macquarie Dictionary but here is my entry for it:

    JOBS, with or without an exclamation mark. Used by failed celebrities, dodgy politicians, unconvicted money-movers, news-and-entertainment media personalities and other assorted scoundrels. Verbal shorthand for several terms, such as –
    “I am lying through my back teeth”.
    “Yes but not for you, you Aussie scum”.
    “If you believe this you are even stupider than everyone thinks”.
    “Short-term 3-D (dirty, dangerous and degrading) work only with no guarantee of pay in full”.

    Around this part of The Other Australia, the word is that any politician foolish enough to utter the “J” word during an election campaign is likely to lose their deposit.

    Hey, what’s this next federal election being 18 months away? In their dreams. We won’t need all these bushfire wars to coalesce into a general war to force an earlier federal election, there are more than enough domestic issues to trigger a federal election at any time sooner than 18 months hence.

  15. On employment impacts of Adani, I addressed this in Update 2 of The Adani Project: – is it good for Australia? based on The Australia Institute study.

    Employment would be positive for Townsville, but not a game changer. Townsville has a population of around 180,000 and only employs about 2500 working on mining.

    The impact on Rockhampton would be “mixed”, I’d suggest neutral, and negative for Gladstone and Mackay.

    According to Wood Mackenzie, 10 new mining projects or mine expansions in the NSW Hunter Valley would be displaced by the Galilee Basin output and shelved or delayed, eight mining projects or expansions would be delayed or shelved in Queensland, and Hunter Valley thermal coal output would fall by some 86 million tonnes, or 37 per cent.

  16. Brian,

    Meanwhile it is disappointing that no-one in politics or the media is challenging the LNP’s spruiking of jobs flowing from the Adani venture.

    On ABC Insiders on Sunday (Feb 11), Tanya Plibersek was asked (from about time interval 04:00) whether she supported the Adani Carmichael project. She said (per the transcript):

    I’ve always been skeptical about whether this stacks up, economically, or environmentally. And I’ve said that for a long time. We’ve seen just in recent days, reports that the company has falsified test results from a serious spill. But you know, right back to whether this stacks up economically, we’ve seen inflated jobs numbers, we’ve seen the company itself say we don’t need a dollar of taxpayer funds for this to proceed and them sticking their hands out the next minute for $1billion of taxpayer funding. We have the beautiful Great Barrier Reef, just an exquisite natural beautiful piece of Australian nature that supports tens of thousands of jobs. Why would we put that at risk with a project like this? There are a lot of questions to answer.

    So it seems the ALP is starting to challenge the LNP’s spruiking of jobs flowing from the Adani venture.

  17. Brian,

    From the transcript (PROOF COPY) of the Australian Senate inquiry into the governance and operation of the NAIF public hearing in Cairns on Feb 1, on page 61, Senator BARTLETT asks:

    Going back to that previous side mention of Adani, I think in August hearings of this committee you said that application was at the due diligence phase. Where is it at now?

    Ms Laurie Walker – CEO of the NAIF, replied:

    As you probably know, the Queensland government vetoed that project, and under our investment mandate the Queensland government is entitled to do that at any time and for any reason. When they do, we cease to look at the project. That’s how our mandate’s written, so we are not looking at that project.

    With Aurizon’s application to the NAIF for a Galilee Basin rail line now withdrawn, and the Adani application to the NAIF for a similar rail line vetoed by the Queensland Government, and the NAIF no longer considering the Adani rail project, then it looks like the Adani Carmichael mine is stalled also.

    Without viable funding for a rail line from the Galilee Basin to a sea port, there can be no prospects for coal mines in the Galilee Basin.

  18. Geoff, yes Aurizon has given the rail project away because they were not stupid enough to build the line on spec. They wanted to see actual coal supply contracts, and there are none.

  19. QLD is the Greens weakest state and i doubt they can repeat their 2010 fluke of a Senate seat next year, especially with GTV gone.

    Queenslanders like their coal and casino jobs and I’m sure some of them outside Brisbane would like to do something scary and painful to Richard di Natale, Drew Hutton et al.

  20. Scott, there is little love for the Greens among farmers and graziers in Queensland. However, Drew Hutton was raised in Chinchilla, I think, any way the Western Downs, where he has returned to campaign against coal seam gas. He has recently retired from Lock the Gate which brought greens and farmers together.

    BTW I had the opportunity of voting for him multiple times at three levels of government. His highest vote was was 25.64% in the ward of The Gabba in the 2008 Brisbane City Council elections.

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