Green Groups Swallow Tricky Turnbull Line, Hook And Sinker

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Environmental groups have taken the bait and jumped the shark, after Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said on the campaign trail today that “there is no public money for Adani”.

The comment had been hailed as a death knell for Adani’s struggling $16 billion Carmichael coal mine, which would be the largest in the southern hemisphere if it’s built.

The development comes after Malcolm Turnbull was confronted by a climate activist dressed as Nemo, and asked if he would rule out public money being used to help Adani develop its controversial coal mine.

The company’s plans to develop the mega-mine in Queensland’s Galilee Basin have been flagging, as it struggles to attract private finance to get the Carmichael mine off the ground.

Recently, public money has been seen as the only real possibility for the company to revive its flagging project. But after taking a selfie with Nemo for his grandson, Turnbull said “there is no public money for Adani”.

Environmental groups had celebrated the comment, taking it to mean Turnbull would not subsidise the destruction of the Great Barrier Reef before his grandson is old enough to enjoy it.

The former Newman Government in Queensland had been set to provide a soft loan for rail infrastructure, which is key to the mine’s success, but on coming to office the Queensland Labor Government withdrew the offer.

A school of at least 13 major banks have ruled out finance for the project, which was eventually put on hold by its Indian backers in February this year because of the tanking coal price.

Since then, speculation has intensified over whether the Federal Government’s Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility might provide soft loans for rail or port infrastructure, and improve the economic viability of Adani’s project.

Turnbull had appeared to rule that out today. The Australian Youth Climate Coalition, Greenpeace, and 350.org all issued press releases hailing Turnbull for his apparent rejection of an effective subsidy through the $5 billion Investment Facility.

Dan Spencer, the Australian Youth Climate Coalition activist who hooked into Turnbull on the issue earlier today, had said the Prime Minister’s statement “effectively stops Adani in their tracks”. Greenpeace Reef campaigner Shani Tager said “Malcolm Turnbull and Bill Shorten are right to rule out throwing taxpayers money at this disastrous project”.

Moira Williams, from 350.org, said “this must finally be the nail in the coffin for the Adani Carmichael coal mine. There is no finance for it now, [and]there is no appetite for it in Australia or globally and Mr Turnbull has confirmed that today.”

(IMAGE: Thom Mitchell.)
(IMAGE: Thom Mitchell.)

Except that he didn’t. A spokesperson from the office of Prime Minister and Cabinet said Malcolm Turnbull’s “position is completely in line with what the Minister for Resources has said”. The Minister for Energy and Resources, Josh Frydenberg, has not ruled out public money being used to help develop Adani’s coal mine or others in the Galilee Basin.

“As I have consistently said, the Carmichael project is a commercial operation and it needs to stand on its own two feet,” Frydenberg told the Courier Mail in October last year. But he went on to say that investment decisions under the Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility, “will be made by its independent board with the goal of putting in place key economic infrastructure that helps to develop the north”.

Prime Minister Turnbull’s staff confirmed that there is still a possibility the Board could decide to assist in the construction of infrastructure linked to the Adani project.

On hearing the news Dan Spencer said, “the Prime Minister really needs to come clean here. If he’s saying publicly there’s no funding for Adani, and his staff are staying different things, that’s not good enough.

“The health of our climate and the Reef, Nemo’s home, means the Prime Minister needs to commit to not funding the Adani Carmichael coal mine. You can’t have both.”

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Thom Mitchell

Thom Mitchell is New Matilda's Environment Reporter.

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