TO SAY Adani’s Carmichael Mine is a polarising issue would be an understatement.
My view is that the general population is very interested in Adani’s Carmichael Mine project — in fact, all things concerning the company — but there is very little information being presented to the people.
Rumours abound, and in the minds of the general public the politicians appear to be distorting the facts, and the evidence comes almost daily that they are losing the trust of the overall population.
Recently I was in Townsville and met with some friends. Days later they phoned me, giving me 45 minutes notice to attend a luncheon addressed by the Adani hierarchy. I was in Proserpine — three hours away — but would have jumped at the chance to hear their version.
One particular interest of mine is in the Adani property structure — which is not unlike those adopted by multi-nationals to channel profits out of a country to avoid paying taxes.
I am perplexed that Adani apparently directs its royalties into tax havens like the Virgin Islands. They can’t have it both ways — this nation wants its fair share in royalties and taxes — and ‘fiddling with the till’ immediately gets the locals offside.
This week, I was invited to attend a farmers’ meeting near Emerald, convened by Farmers for Climate Action, to discuss the Adani project and, more particularly, its contribution towards the deterioration of groundwater supplies for agriculture and problems in the longer term.
Keynote speaker was the former general manager of Water Planning and Allocation for the Queensland government, Tom Crothers, who has left the public service to consult in water planning and management for primary production, mining, and petroleum and gas operations.
At his fingertips he had facts and figures, and he didn’t need notes to get to the point.
Amid the rhetoric of those who simply want to close the project down, there is one important factor: If these people get their way, Adani will be able to sue all levels of government for countless billions of dollars, and has the potential to send this country broke.
Too much has already been committed by the three levels of government.
And there’s no doubt this factor is a major concern of government if Adani decides not to proceed.
It will be a live cattle export debacle all over again. A television program made some contentious and dubious claims, a government minister, at the behest of his colleagues, made some knee-jerk reactions, an entire industry was devastated and is still clawing its way back, and some graziers felt the financial impacts. But what of the Minister: he’s now retired and living on a huge government pension.
To go one step further, who are we as a nation to dictate to a third world country how they should develop?
Australia has the resources India needs; they are prepared to come to Australia to mine it and send it back to the sub-continent as they endeavour to pull themselves up by the bootstraps to become a first world country — just like us.
Let’s also remember that in a few months time, India’s population will outpace that of China.
There are those who will refer to the Indian caste system (born poor, die poor), but like the Chinese middle class, aspiration and the taste of big money does powerful things. Everyone deserves a chance.
In return, Adani will pay this nation huge royalties — and the last I heard, there are more than 50 per cent of Australians receiving some sort of government benefit — and the figure is rising as the baby boomers increase the pension load and politicians make election promises they know this nation cannot afford. People must consider whether we sell our resources or pay more tax.
Renewable energy is still in its infancy — yet politicians sign-up to worthless agreements like the Paris farce, and we are then saddled with exorbitant energy costs. And there is a conga line of charlatans the world over seeking-out governments to fleece — and they are finding them right here in Australia as well.
Additionally, there is the railway from the Carmichael Mine to Abbott Point just north of Bowen, which is being financed by a loan from the Federal Government, and the rails will come from a steelworks in Whyalla. Heaven knows, the mendicant state of South Australia certainly needs an injection of legitimate funds rather than those of the Australian taxpayer.
I believe that the rail line should belong to this nation. There are nine mines proposed for the region; if one entity has sole ownership, huge problems are assured — the owner of the line can dictate terms to other miners wanting to also export their minerals rapidly. Otherwise they will build their own railways, and we will have a ‘spaghetti rail infrastructure’ — including subsequent resumptions of valuable agricultural land.
It is simply best practice that the government owns the rail line, thus eliminating a great amount of heartache. It will be another asset in the nation’s belt.
Yet, at this week’s forum in Emerald — which I am very glad I attended and was able to hear some sensible argument — there were some anomalies that need to be stated.
Tom Crothers pointed-out very clinically just how much water is going to be consumed by the giant Carmichael Mine, just how many watercourses are going to be diverted, and the enormous affect on the Great Artesian Basin.
Additionally, farmers in the Central Highlands are in high praise of the Fairbairn Dam — now at 40 per cent capacity — for the wealth agriculture is creating.
Yet, 0.66 per cent of Fairbairn’s capacity (annually) will be devoured by the Carmichael Mine over its 60-year life. That’s major competition for agriculture, apart from the loss of land.
But what I have not heard is anyone standing-up and calling for more dams to be built to service the obviously increased need.
Nationals leader Barnaby Joyce has earmarked a series of dams, but I doubt if Turnbull is really listening, and neither is Queensland’s Palaszczuk Labor government, which knows very well that Deputy Premier Jackie Trad has every chance of losing her seat to The Greens candidate in the electorate of West End (central Brisbane) in the next state election.
Essentially, the Queensland government will not even mention dams lest they lose the Green vote.
Many years ago, some very wise men proposed the Burdekin Dam be the next Snowy Mountains Scheme. It would store the water, ultimately to be channelled west, generating hydro-electricity as a by-product. The major beneficiary of the Burdekin Dam at present is Townsville for its water supply, because the State Government won’t support the Hells Gate dam, the logical site for an expanding city with potential for progress.
If dams were built on the Fitzroy (Rockhampton) and the Urannah (Bowen), plus others, present water storages like the Fairbairn could be kept filled and mines like Carmichael (and eight others) would have assured water supplies without depleting (and perhaps destroying) natural storages as important as the Great Artesian Basin.
What does stick in my craw are the comments from those who are obsessed with either closing-down Adani without any reason or alternative, sending the world backwards to a modern equivalent of before the industrial revolution, or paying enormous amounts of taxpayer monies for very little return.
Comments like “there are ways to influence elections” (the totalitarian view) and questions boxed into a politically-motivated preamble, just don’t cut it with me.
People who attend these meetings need to get away from the “I’m right, you’re wrong” rhetoric — if you’re against something, come-up with solutions and be prepared to back your arguments with facts.
The pleasant fact about the Emerald Farmers’ Forum is that it had a mix of those with facts and valid arguments (often gained by spending their own money to research further), plus those who were there to listen and learn. Like me, I am prepared to listen to both sides of an argument to get the real story — not green gaia rhetoric.