Political activist group GetUp will target Labor MPs who don’t publicly oppose Adani’s controversial $2 billion Carmichael mine, saying Bill Shorten and his ministers can’t “sit on the fence” on the issue ahead of next year’s federal election.
While Mr Shorten and his deputy Tanya Plibersek on Friday expressed scepticism about whether the project would ever get off the ground, GetUp campaigns director Sam Regester said Labor needed to come out and strongly oppose the project.
“There’s no fence for Labor to sit on. This mine is a disaster and anyone not willing to stop it will have our full force to deal with,” Mr Regester said.
“It’s not enough for Labor to claim this dirty mine won’t get built, MPs need to tell voters they condemn this mine and make it an election commitment. GetUp members are already calling their local MPs, no matter their political stripes, to tell them they don’t want this coal mine.”
ALP’s factional deal on Adani
Federal and Labor MPs were warned not to say anything after Adani announced on Thursday it would self-fund the thermal coal project in Central Queensland, for fear of driving a wedge between the Left and the Right of the party ahead of next month’s ALP national conference.
Party sources said an informal deal had been struck between the factions to ensure Adani did not become a political diversion for the ALP head of the next election, due in May.
The position had been carefully crafted and represented a peace deal balancing pro-climate action sentiment in inner-city seats with those in regional areas crying out for jobs.
Left MPs were fired up about the original Adani proposal for a $16.5 billion, 60 million tonnes a year project, and have been partly appeased because the Indian energy giant has scaled back the mine to $2 billion capital cost and only 10 million to 15 million tonnes a year, with the potential to expand to 27 million tonnes a year.
Mr Shorten said Labor remained committed to coal as a part of the nation’s future energy mix, but would not scrap any existing approvals if they won government.
“First of all, we’ve got existing mines – they will keep operating. I’ve made it very clear coal is still a part of the energy mix. But we want real action on climate change,” he said on Friday.
“I don’t deal in hypotheticals [about scrapping future coal mines]. We are certainly sceptical about the Adani development in the Galilee Basin. That’s had plenty of false starts. We’ll take each case based upon its merits whether or not it qualifies through the environmental and scientific approvals.”
Ms Plibersek earlier said she did not believe Adani’s Carmichael mine stood up environmentally or financially, which was why international banks were steering clear of the project.
Backbench Labor MPs from the party’s left went to ground when contacted by AFR Weekend on Friday, although Newcastle MP Sharon Claydon raised the competition impact Adani’s mine would have on the NSW Hunter Valley’s coal industry.
“There’s no love lost for Adani in the Newcastle-Hunter region. It’s been one of those rare issues where the environmental movement, the local mining industry and the Port of Newcastle have been united in their opposition,” she said.
“I remain enormously sceptical about whether this project will actually proceed given the number of false starts we’ve seen already.”
Greens to target Shorten
Greens leader Richard Di Natale also signalled the party would target Mr Shorten – who in the past has championed the jobs the project would create in regional Queensland – over its position on Adani.
“Bill Shorten won’t take a stand because Labor gets millions of dollars in donations from coal, oil and gas corporations, so we will be pushing him hard to rip up the approval when they form government,” he said.
“That’s why we need the Greens in the Senate, to keep Labor honest and push them to take strong climate action.”
Federal Resources Minister Matt Canavan has enthusiastically welcomed Adani’s decision on the Carmichael mine saying it could open up the Galilee Basin to other coal mines, including MacMines and GVK/Hancock Coal.
Environmental groups have vowed to target the Carmichael mine until the project is stopped. Listed rail company Aurizon, which is likely to transport the coal to Abbot Point coal terminal, is also expected to be targeted by protesters.
Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk, who was still dealing with wildfires across the state on Friday, has refused to support the Adani project.
Adani, which will use the export coal for its own power stations in India, still needs a final tick-off for its management plans for two issues – the protection of the black-throated finch and groundwater – before they can break ground on the project.
Adani is hoping to start the project by Christmas and export the first coal by the end of 2020.