This post was originally published in Challenge Magazine.
By Neha Madhok, Senior Campaigner
Labor has led the social and economic transformations of this country. There’s an immediate transformation happening now in the global shift away from fossil fuels – in particular coal. Only Labor can lead the nation through this transformation in a fair and just way and the Adani coal mine proposal represents the first major step required to begin this process.
This is Labor’s opportunity to step up and lead with a vision for an Australia of the future. A country where 20 years from now people have secure, well-paid jobs in work that doesn’t destroy the planet.
Let’s not pretend that this shift will be an easy one for the ALP, the party of working people has a responsibility to its base, especially when it has been so loyal.
There is a false dichotomy around ‘inner city’ and ‘traditional’ Labor voters. Working people understand climate change and its impacts, the tension comes when in the necessity to implement progressive policy, the ALP must also ensure that those impacted by policy change are not lost in the tides of change.
Loyal Labor voters who for generations have backed the only party that has looked out for them – for public infrastructure, education, and employment opportunities, they’re voting for security in a changing world. Labor can’t abandon bread and butter outcomes for comparatively affluent voters who demand ideological purity.
But what we must do is ensure the impacts of climate change are tackled in bread and butter policy. The global tide against coal is already happening and Australia has two options. The first is the push against the tide, like the Turnbull Government is doing. The second is to get ready to swim with it, and in doing so ensure no one gets left behind – Labor can ensure secure, union jobs in the transition away from coal.
We’re getting there. Labor’s target of 50% renewable energy by 2030 is the kind of leadership we need, and it’s a policy that showcases the best of Labor – an outcome won through grassroots organising by party members. But it’s only the start of what we need. Renewable energy alone won’t slow down the impacts of climate change. Ultimately we need to phase out coal and gas mining.
Withdrawing support for the Adani Carmichael coal mine is the next step the ALP must take to meaningfully address climate change. This coal mine is a symbol of what is needed. Do we build the world’s biggest coal mine in a new coal basin, or do we invest in a future that aligns with the global shifts?
This is Labor’s opportunity to demonstrate vision, and where a Shorten Labor Government delivers the energy transition for North Queensland that has to happen. We know a Liberal Government won’t be looking out for working people when companies start shutting down mines, but a Labor Government will.
The renewable energy powered future is already upon us. Companies like AGL and BHP are openly moving away from fossil fuels. TESLA is literally skyrocketing the energy disruption and China is miles ahead of any other nation. The transition is currently being led by the market and if we don’t act now, then the energy companies will push ahead and do what they always do – try and hire as few people as possible on the lowest wages possible.
Adani promises jobs for North Queensland, but as became clear when challenged in court, their jobs figures are massively inflated. We know that people deserve better than that. Everyone deserves access to a secure, union job, and a Labor government can work with industry and the union movement and create a transition that is fair.
Gautam Adani, like local counterparts Gina Rinehart and Clive Palmer, is a tax-dodging mining magnate. Do we really want to give someone known to behave in questionable ways a licence to destroy our environment? The Stop Adani campaign’s website lays it out:
From allegations of offshore tax dodging, to inflated jobs claims and corruption. Adani companies are under investigation for corruption, fraud, money laundering and tax evasion in India. A number of Adani subsidiaries registered in Australia are ultimately owned by entities registered in the infamous Cayman Island and British Virgin Islands tax havens.
In an Australian court, Adani was shown to have misled the public about the amount of royalties and jobs the mine would generate, while its Australian CEO boasts to the business press “everything will be autonomous from mine to port”.
Instead of lining the pockets of the rich, let’s build meaningful investment in North Queensland, with infrastructure and work for all.
The Adani Carmichael mine can’t stand on its own two feet. Having been rejected by 28 banks here and overseas the project is now reliant on government cash. The biggest banks in the world: Bank of China, China Merchants Bank, China Construction Bank, Goldman Sachs, Deutsche Bank and our very own big four banks have refused to back this risky project. Now it’s time for Labor to also step up, and commit to ensuring no federal funding reaches this mine.
Adani have also lost one of only two construction companies capable of building a mine of this scale – Downer EDI. Meanwhile, Aurizon won’t build the essential rail link they need, and so Adani are appealing to our government for taxpayer dollars to fund their mine. When the world’s biggest capitalists think the mine is too risky, why is millionaire Malcolm ready to risk taxpayer dollars on it?
The fundamental facts are that coal from this mine will generate thousands of tonnes of greenhouse gases each year, fueling dangerous climate change. And on top of the threat that poses, the coal would be shipped through the Great Barrier Reef – our precious World Heritage site which supports more than 60,000 jobs.
The fight against the Adani coal mine is a message to all coal companies. For our health, for our jobs and for our climate, we must keep fossil fuels in the ground.
It’s time to move beyond coal. Now is the perfect time for Australia to wind down this dying industry while ensuring a future for the people that work in it. It’s time to begin working towards a new approach to energy generation in Australia.