Gautam Adani seems set to get the final go-ahead for his coal mine in Queensland though Prime Minister Scott Morrison, heeding advice that the word ‘Adani’ was poison, never used it during the election campaign.
Morrison’s performance was as impressive as Tasmanian Premier Robin Gray’s in 1982. Gray barely mentioned the Gordon-below-Franklin dam in winning the state election but quickly ordered the bulldozers into the Franklin River valley.
Post-election Morrison wants to burn for us, in particular, more coal, oil, and gas. He also wants to log and burn more Australian forests which would otherwise be absorbing carbon. His ambitions face opposition.
Back in April, the Stop Adani Convoy had a friendly welcome from the Wangan and Jagalingou people when it arrived in Clermont near Adani’s mine site. The convoy also faced condemnation from far-right politicians and a crowd at a local pub. Although 93 percent of jobs in central Queensland are not in coal mining, the pro-Adani calls were for local jobs now to trump the impact of burning more coal on other Australians’ lives in the future.
The election results, including the 3 percent swing to the Greens in Queensland, may be argued till the climate cows come home. The ethical question of whether ‘me, now!’ prevails over ‘them, later!’ in national thinking in 2019 was more clearly resolved. Our children can go to hell.
Ignoring that swing to Greens Senator Larissa Waters, and the nationwide swing to the Greens, Brisbane Greens city councillor Jonathan Sri echoed the Murdoch media: “in this case Bob Brown ... played right into the coal industry’s hands. Many of us in Brissie were quietly sceptical that a bunch of ‘southern greenies’ (‘southern’ includes Brisbane) driving up to central Queensland to tell people what to think about new coal projects would end well”.
This windsock, truly playing into the coal industry’s hands, was in the rally weeks earlier when 5,000 people protested outside Adani’s Brisbane headquarters.
Sri would have done better promoting Richard Di Natalie’s platform offering 180,000 new jobs in renewable energy including 50,000 for Queensland.
The Deputy Leader of the National Party Bridget McKenzie said Adani’s mine will have 100 jobs on-going. But, curiously enough, neither McKenzie nor Prime Minister Morrison has raised a word of concern for the 6000 jobs Telstra is shedding right now.
Tony Abbott summed up for both Warringah and Australia on election night as he conceded defeat to climate action candidate Zali Steggall: "Where climate change is a moral issue, we Liberals do it tough. But where climate change is an economic issue, as a result - tonight shows - we do very, very well”. In his electorate morality trumped money but nationwide it was the other way round.
Maybe if, as with Bob Hawke and the Franklin, Bill Shorten had committed to stopping Adani and a just transition for the workers, he would be Prime Minister. But he didn’t and he isn’t.
Meanwhile, the catastrophe is building. We eight billion people are the biggest herd of mammals ever to graze the planet. One estimate is that the livestock we graze to eat now makeup 60 percent of the mammal mass, we make up 36 percent, and the remnant wildlife on Earth weighs in at 4 percent. We are consuming 170 percent of Earth’s living renewable resources so that every morning sees fewer forests and wildlife, more collapsed fisheries, less arable land, less snow and ice and more mouths to feed. Not content, every country on Earth wants growth. There are a lot of heads in the sand.
Recently, within 24 hours, ABC radio put to air news of a deepening drought, the unprecedented need to import grain, the water emergency for inland NSW towns, and dengue fever turning up in southerly Rockhampton - all without mentioning global heating or coal.
And, according to ABC environment and science writer Michael Slezic, “Former Greens leader Bob Brown led the now-infamous Stop Adani Convoy from Hobart, through Melbourne and Sydney, right into Central Queensland. It was the epitome of what some describe as trying to ‘drive change from out of town’.” Slezic added: “One of Australia's leading social researchers, Rebecca Huntley, said the Stop Adani Convoy strategy was bound to fail. ‘People from outside the area coming in - that just pisses people off,’ said Dr Huntley, who heads up Vox Populi Research.”
Slezic did not interview me. The case he and Huntley put is feel-good nonsense. Should the campaign to save the Franklin have first converted 1982 Queenstown to not wanting the dam? Did Malcolm Fraser err when he shut down the whaling industry despite howls of protest in Albany in 1978?
And why should billionaires Gautam Adani and Rupert Murdoch, or the mining union, be dictating that everyone else pay for their role in the climate catastrophe?
Along with millions, my response is to raise the campaign. Earth is worth it. We have a conflict of ethics: of long-sightedness versus short-sightedness - and the dispute is global. Others have moved more quickly to action.
Norway is giving electric vehicles free parking, the use of bus lanes and free recharging, while increasing taxes on fossil fuel powered vehicles. Helsinki, Paris and other European cities plan to ban the sale of gas guzzlers by 2025. Mercedes is taking on Tesla by opening six electric vehicle factories on three continents, despite Morrison’s angst that EVs will ruin weekends for Australians.
Germany has closed its last coal mine, ending the jobs of 1,500 miners. New Zealand will open no more. Britain has powered itself for a week without coal for the first time since the start of the industrial revolution. China is rapidly decelerating its building of coal-fired power plants. Adani, hedging bets, has set up Adani Renewables: he knows his coal risks becoming a stranded asset.
I am occasionally asked “Bob, why aren’t the Greens more powerful?” The answer is simple: “because 90 percent of Australians don’t vote Green”. But, then again, it’s not so long ago that 90 percent of people did not want women having the vote, or children an education. Daunting as the future of this over-populated and heating Earth may be, it’s good being in an optimistic campaign to secure humanity’s future.
Our next event will be outside the Indian High Commission in Canberra on Saturday 15th June. It is about exploiter Adani again. He intends bulldozing, for coal, a wildlife-filled central Indian forest from which the Gond people (who gave their name to Gondwana) eke a living. We protest, for their fate and ours are inextricably entwined.