Rob Idol

Choke point: What the Adani conversation should be

Adani

Approx Reading Time-17The Adani issue has been discussed from so many angles, we tend to lose sight of the bigger picture, and indeed what we can do about it.

 

 

 

In a 24/7 news cycle, it’s very easy for important issues to be forgotten. With the potential threat of nuclear war, terrorist attacks and…well…Trump, there is always another attention-grabbing headline just around the corner. With the fear that headlines like this generate ever-present in most people’s minds, it’s understandable that other issues deserving of our attention fall to the wayside – issues that on any given day should be front page treatment, but which find themselves bumped well away from the eyes of the general public. Lately, the environment has been one of those casualties. Unfortunately, it is subject matter that quite often attracts the highest level of apathy and misinformation, so often pushed into the ideology category in order to paint environmental concerns as a distinctly “left” or “green” issue.

I’m not an environmentalist. I’m far too selfish to accept the level of changes in my existence that I should make to have a real impact in reversing the damage done. I think a lot of us fall into this category. We fully accept that climate change is real; we acknowledge that our own actions are contributing to it and other environmental damage; we have momentary pangs of conscience where we want to do something about it but more often settle for sharing a link on Facebook, or throwing a donation to a related cause.

It’s not that we don’t care; it’s that we believe we are powerless to make a difference or that we can’t make a big enough difference to warrant trying in the first place. In many ways, it’s a macro example of the bystander effect. We choose not to help because of the fact that it affects us all, and there is always someone more qualified and more passionate to address the problem on our behalf.

To be fair, it’s kind of true. Whilst we can make changes within our own lives that can have a positive effect (or at least mitigate our negative impact somewhat), the big changes need to be made by those well above our pay grade. I don’t say this to diminish or excuse our own responsibility; I say this because in pragmatic terms, it simply is the case. I can choose not to drive my car to work but that’s not going to stop the dredging of the Great Barrier Reef.

What we are left with then, is something a lot more powerful; something we need to start using to ensure that these issues are not forgotten and not pushed to the back pages to make room for the next sensational headline. We are left with our votes. The age of populist politics has many drawbacks, but it also allows the masses to get shit done if we put our ballots to it.

We don’t have courageous politicians that are willing to risk their own careers in making unpopular decisions that are genuinely in our best interest. We have double-speaking ladder climbers that will sell their soul for your vote. Whilst this leads to a particularly petty and uninspiring caricature of leadership, it also means that they will literally do what we tell them to do, providing enough of us make our voices heard.

There aren’t 76 people being misled here, there are roughly 25 million. Never forget Jack Horner’s (Burt Reynolds) words in the film Boogie Nights: “If it looks like shit, and it sounds like shit, then it must be shit.”

It’s not a perfect formula by any stretch. The issue of marriage equality is a stark example of something that the majority of the population are either in favour of or indifferent towards, yet extremists within the political machine still yield enough power to block the will of the majority. Environmental issues, too, have their fair share of naysayers, deniers and self-preservationists within the ranks of influence. Their numbers, however, are fewer and are increasingly being viewed with the level of derision usually reserved for those that believe this blue dot of ours actually has a ledge they can fall off.

So I won’t be going anywhere near any moral high horses today to avoid the inevitable hypocrisy. What I will do is bring one very important issue back into the spotlight today because it deserves our attention. It is one that could set back environmental and social interests in this country significantly – one that received a brief glimpse of attention, only to be “Trumped” by other important matters such as an airbrushed picture of Kim Kardashian’s derriere.

Let’s talk about the proposed Carmichael coal mine in central Queensland, a mine that our government is determined to get off the ground despite compelling evidence not to and compelling opposition – both governmental and in private enterprise.

The mine is proposed to be built north of the Galilee Basin and run by Adani Mining (Adani Mining being a wholly owned subsidiary of the Indian company, Adani Group). When completed, it will be the largest coal mine in Australia and one of the largest in the world. At a time when we have committed as a country to doing our bit to reduce CO2 emissions, at a time when our Government claims to be focussed on a transition to renewable energy supplies (and lambasts any state premier who takes it upon themselves to try and get the job done quicker), they have approved construction of the biggest coal mine in Australia. Even if you believe that we still need coal until we have the kinks worked out of a fully renewable system (a valid belief too), no-one can possibly believe that increasing coal production is the answer, for pretty much the same reason that firefighters don’t use petrol to try and put out fires.

Let’s start with Adani themselves. Jeyakumar Janakaraj, the CEO of the Australian arm of Adani, allegedly had a little trouble in his last position in Zambia. Whilst employed as the operations director at Konkola Copper Mines in 2010, the company was charged for polluting the Kafue River with toxic wastewater – a river that was relied upon for drinking water, fishing and irrigation for local communities. Janakaraj was named in the claim as “one of the executives expected to know in detail about its mining operations and pollution control measures”.

What’s worse, Adani didn’t declare this little dot point on his resume – even when they were specifically asked. Prior to approval being given for the mine, Janakaraj himself was asked by the Federal Environment Department whether any executive officer had “been the subject of any civil or criminal penalties or compliance-related findings, for breaches of, or noncompliance with environmental laws…” Funnily enough, he didn’t put his name on that list. The Australian Government’s response once this information became public? Nothing…absolutely no action taken against Adani.

Adani campaigned on the promise of 10,000 jobs and $22b in royalties going back to the public… Fahrer indicated that the actual numbers were more likely to be 1,464 jobs (over 30 years) and up to $4.8b in royalties.

That’s just scratching the surface. The mine has also been granted a 60-year unlimited water license. The permit provides literally no limit on the amount of groundwater they can take. They are only required to self-regulate, examine the effects of taking the water, and provide “make-good” agreements to any affected landholders in the surrounding area. (Hopefully we don’t need too much of the most precious resource in the world in the next 60 years or so.)

According to think-tank The Australia Institute, the average annual emissions from burning coal from Carmichael will be around 79 million tonnes of CO2. To put that in perspective, that emission level is more than the annual emissions from Sri Lanka, more than Bangladesh (with a population of around 160 million people), around the same as annual emissions from Malaysia and Austria and slightly less than Vietnam’s annual contribution.

Or to put it another way; it will be three times the average annual emissions from New Delhi, double those from Tokyo, six times those of Amsterdam and 20% more than New…York…City.

Excuse my language, but…are you fucking serious?

But it will create jobs, it will create economic prosperity – two things we need at the moment because our government can’t seem to work out how to generate either through any other policy decisions.

I call bullshit.

Adani have campaigned on the promise of creating 10,000 jobs and $22 billion in royalties going back into the public coffers. The numbers, as it turns out, are likely from the Bob Day school of bookkeeping. (Sorry…too soon?) When Adani were applying to the National Native Title Tribunal to overturn the Wangan and Jagalingou traditional owners’ refusal to sign off on an Indigenous land use agreement, they did so on the basis that it would create those 10,000 jobs and $22 billion in royalties and was therefore in the public interest.

The decision was overturned by the NNTT for that very reason. What the NNTT weren’t aware of at the time was that Adani had withheld a report they commissioned from economic consultant Jerome Fahrer, into the various outputs of their proposed mine. When being cross examined in Queensland’s land court, Fahrer indicated that the actual numbers were more likely to be 1,464 jobs (over 30 years) and up to $4.8 billion in royalties. But what are 8,536 jobs and $17.2 billion between mates?


Also on The Big Smoke


Not that Gautam Adani, the billionaire behind Adani, is quaking in his boots. He just received a personal guarantee from PM Turnbull that native title issues won’t get in the way of his project. Just to be sure, AG Brandis is rushing through a bill to make changes to native title laws. Why would that surprise us? The last time someone tried to challenge Carmichael, Brandis introduced a bill which is still before the Senate that seeks to stop anyone from launching action for environmental reasons unless they can prove they are “directly affected” – in other words, if you effectively aren’t living next door then there is jack shit you can do about it.

On top of this, according to a new study from climate advocacy group 350.org, federal government agencies are investing $71.4 million into solar and wind farms in Queensland that will deliver a total of 2,218 jobs. Carmichael will deliver 1,464 jobs at a cost to the Federal Government of $683,060 per job in subsidies – the 2,218 being created through renewables will be at a cost of $32,191 per worker according to the study.

Oh, and Adani just put their hand out for almost $1 billion in funds from the Australian Government to build a rail line from the mine to the port.

Why does a multi-billion-dollar international company ask to be subsidised by our government for taking our non-renewable resources from the ground to add to their own bottom line, you ask? Because 14 banks and financial institutions had refused them finance because of the issues I’ve already raised above (as well as others I couldn’t hope to fit in my word count). When our Government is lending money that banks refuse to on ethical grounds…well, I don’t even know what to say about that.

We could also consider that according to a report from Australia’s Climate Council, the loss of the Great Barrier Reef would put 10,000 jobs in jeopardy as well as drain about $1 billion from the economy; worldwide, the cost across all corals reefs is closer to $1 trillion according to the report.

Even if you are inclined to believe that global warming isn’t responsible for the damage to our reef, it’s hard to ignore the inevitable damage of the new coal terminal Adani plans to build at the Abbot Point port to transport coal from Carmichael. The port is literally next to the Great Barrier Reef, a short 19km from the closest coral. The proposed expansion would require dredging in the waters that the reef calls home. As recently as two weeks ago, an investigation was also launched into the terminal under suspicions it may have made unauthorised water releases into the nearby wetlands. The investigations are still underway but the satellite imagery paints a pretty clear, or should I say, pretty black picture…

Average annual emissions will be around 79 million tonnes of CO2. That is more than the annual emissions from Sri Lanka, more than Bangladesh, around the same as Malaysia and Austria and slightly less than Vietnam.

Thankfully, where our government fails (or believe it or not, argues that more coal is good for the environment), other community leaders step up to fight on our behalf. Former Greens leader, Bob Brown, has put his gloves back on to fight against what he describes as “this generation’s Franklin River”. Joining him is millionaire businessman Geoff Cousins, a former advisor to the Howard Government, who was involved in the successful campaign to stop the Gunns Pulp Mill in Tasmania and the proposed Woodside gas hub in the Kimberley. Former Australian Test cricket captains Ian and Greg Chappell, Pulitzer Prize-winning author Geraldine Brooks and rock legends Midnight Oil have all publicly joined the fight as well.

Adani’s response to those rallying to stop this farce? They rejected the demands as “a motivated attempt by a very small group of 76 misled people”.

There aren’t 76 people being misled here, there are roughly 25 million. 25 million who are standing by and watching our government sell our futures, and the futures of the generations to come, for less than the 30 pieces of silver that the colloquial namesake of traitors supposedly did 2,000 years ago.

Never forget Jack Horner’s (Burt Reynolds) words in the film Boogie Nights: “If it looks like shit, and it sounds like shit, then it must be shit.”

I’m not asking you to catch the bus to work. I’m not asking you not to avoid air travel and I’m not even asking you not to water your garden or wash your car.

I’m simply asking you to look at this issue closely and not forget about it.

 

Rob Idol

Rob is an aspiring writer who balances his time between a “real” job and his passion for politics, social justice and all things creative. He has an MBA, an unhealthy obsession with current events, an even unhealthier obsession with pop culture and has been known to offer favourable food reviews in exchange for free meals. www.robidol.com.au

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