By George: The Nationals Need To Face Up To Climate Change, And Adani’s Grim Reality

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The Party has lost interest in the real world, writes Thom Mitchell.

It’s hard to say which came first, George Christensen’s MP’s latest frumpy blog post about the Queensland government’s “dilly-dallying” over Adani’s Carmichael Coal Mine, or reports that the project has been put on hold because nobody wants to finance it.

Christensen’s post isn’t time-stamped, but his latest Tweet-to-action came just under two hours after Daniel Burdon filed this report yesterday for the Queensland Times, suggesting that Adani’s $16 billion mega-mine had been shelved.

The National Party Deputy Whip and Member for Dawson may have been too busy to notice, preparing his latest coal-loving diatribe about the “swag of approvals that are holding up [Adani’s] progress”.

(Eds not: Here ‘progress’, stands in for the construction of the largest open-cut coal mine in the Southern Hemisphere.)

According to Burdon’s report, market analysts have declared that far from progressing, Adani’s project is now “dormant”. Its real problem, Axis Capital said in a recent report, is that “further investments in its Australian coal mine project shall be dependent on visibility of revival in global coal prices”.

(Eds note: Here, “visibility of revival in global coal prices” moonlights as another way of saying “probably never”).

Despite bagging a win this week, with the Queensland Labor government granting Adani’s Carmichael mine environmental approval, the Indian company does have a long way to go.

Notably, it needs Environment Minister Greg Hunt to batt away another Federal Court challenge to his approval, from the Australian Conservation Foundation, and to secure state approval for mining leases.

But much more importantly, in the words of Queensland Environment Minister Steve Miles, it must “demonstrate to the satisfaction of the Queensland Government that a financial investment decision has been made for its Galilee Basin developments before the associated expansion project at Abbot Point will be allowed to proceed”.

Which is fair enough because the port, adjacent to the Great Barrier Reef, would be one of the largest coal terminals in the world.

At least thirteen banks have ruled out funding Adani’s venture, and the company appears to have literally none of the $10-billion-odd it would need to get the project off the ground. On top of that, it should be said, the company suffered a 44 per cent blow to year-on-year net profits in 2015.

But it would be a cold global-cooling day in hell before Christensen’s Georgian line of protestation will be diverted by facts. “If we can [just]get these [damn]approvals done, Adani can [bloody well]get on the ground and start building this massive project which will provide up to 10,000 direct and indirect jobs,” Christensen blogged yesterday.

Except, that’s not quite right. The company’s own expert witness admitted in the Queensland Land Court last year that the project would only create 1,464 direct and indirect jobs.

Hey, what’s 8,536 jobs give or take a few?

Christensen’s Nationals colleague, Michelle Landry MP, didn’t seem to mind that Adani’s own expert witness conceded the 10,000 jobs figure is bogus: “Extreme Green organisations have caused major problems, delaying the approval for Carmichael Mine to start digging coal,” Landry declared on Facebook yesterday.

Channelling Christensen, Landry had been joined on Wednesday by four Nationals and a Liberal in calling for the Queensland government to issue Adani the mining licenses it needs to start digging up the Galilee Basin, and shipping coal through the Great Barrier Reef it will destroy.

“Why wait any longer?” Christensen asked in a (separate) blog post on Wednesday. Green-lighting Adani’s project is “and absolute no brainer,” he said. “A major developer needs the patience of a saint when dealing with the Palaszczuk Government and quite frankly it’s ridiculous.” A little bit like climate change itself.

In 2014, Christensen told denialist group the Heartland Institute that Australia’s debate on climate – which, you’ll recall was at a low ebb at the time – had devolved into a “farcical comedy as government and environmental terrorists make ridiculous suggestions about how mankind will control the planet”.

Since that time, Christensen has ramped up his campaign against the “gutless green grubs” who take a less inverted approach to thinking about “how mankind will control the planet”. In particular he’s been standing up to “eco-terrorists” on behalf of a poor beleaguered Indian billionaire, Gautam Adani, who will bag the profit from the Carmichael project and syphon them off to the Caymans and Singapore (it’s right there in the company structure).

On Wednesday, the day of the National’s Adani party, Christensen wanted to know why we don’t just “allow Adani to get started on the massive job-creating project which has been 10 years in the making”. He got it wrong by four years – applications for environmental authority were only lodged with the Federal government in late 2010 – but what’s four years here or there?

It’s nothing in the glorious, grand scheme of Adani. On Wednesday Christensen’s boss, Deputy Prime Minister and Nationals Leader Warren Truss, predicted Adani’s Carmichael Coal Mine will deliver “exciting opportunities” for “100 years”.

By that time Christensen, Truss, and at this rate their whole party, will be fossilised carbon themselves. That should provide some comfort to a party, typified and exposed by Christensen, which is steeped in climate denial, and increasingly isolated by their refusal to acknowledge the basic facts.

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Thom Mitchell

Thom Mitchell is New Matilda's Environment Reporter.

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