BUSI­NESS­MEN SLAM MINE

Daily Mercury - - FRONT PAGE - Charis Chang news@dai­ly­mer­cury.com.au — news.com.au

PUB­LIC op­po­si­tion to Adani’s coal mine con­tin­ues to build in this state elec­tion cy­cle as two prom­i­nent Aus­tralian business lead­ers come out against the project.

En­tre­pre­neur and phi­lan­thropist Michael Myer, of the prom­i­nent Myer re­tail­ing fam­ily, and In­trepid Travel founder and chief ex­ec­u­tive of­fi­cer Geoff Manch­ester, have both de­cided to speak out against the $16.5 bil­lion project in Queens­land’s Galilee Basin.

The two men share sim­i­lar con­cerns but were not aware of the other’s views be­fore go­ing pub­lic.

“It’s a stranded as­set ... and the pro­po­nent (Gau­tam) Adani is ba­si­cally do­ing a very good job at con­ning our politi­cians at all lev­els of gov­ern­ment,” Mr Myer said.

But the fact that gov­ern­ments were sub­si­dis­ing the project was also con­cern­ing, he said. Fed­eral, state and lo­cal gov­ern­ments have all agreed to, or are con­sid­er­ing, pro­vid­ing the project with fi­nan­cial as­sis­tance.

Mr Myer said the eco­nom­ics of the project did not stack up and the lead­ing sup­port­ers of the project were politi­cians, not those in the business world.

“The whole line that this is good for Queens­land jobs is far­ci­cal and delu­sional,” Mr Myer said.

“It doesn’t stack up eco­nom­i­cally and as time goes on the eco­nom­ics get even worse.”

While the gov­ern­ments have con­tin­ued to spruik the “10,000 jobs” that will be cre­ated, Adani’s own ex­pert has ad­mit­ted the fig­ure will be closer to 1400 once jobs lost in other ar­eas are taken into con­sid­er­a­tion.

Mr Myer be­lieves the 10,000 num­ber is “myth­i­cal” and the real num­ber will likely be even less than 1400 as many oper­a­tions can now be au­to­mated.

These jobs could also come at the ex­pense of oth­ers.

At risk is Aus­tralia’s lu­cra­tive tourism in­dus­try, with many con­cerned about the im­pacts of cli­mate change on the Great Bar­rier Reef.

“Tourism op­er­a­tors are very con­cerned about this be­cause we’ve al­ready seen some neg­a­tive im­pact on the Great Bar­rier Reef from bleach­ing in the last cou­ple of years,” In­trepid CEO Geoff Manch­ester said.

“We’ve al­ready had seen some lo­cal tourism op­er­a­tors im­pacted.”

In­trepid runs tours around the world so Mr Manch­ester is not too wor­ried about his own business but he said the reef was of huge im­por­tance to Aus­tralia.

“We are com­ing into an era of po­ten­tial growth in Aus­tralia, Asian coun­tries are be­com­ing more wealthy and trav­el­ling in larger num­bers,” he said.

Mr Manch­ester said Asian tourists, es­pe­cially those who lived in pol­luted cities, wanted to ex­pe­ri­ence na­ture and an­i­mals they would not nec­es­sar­ily see in their home coun­tries. This pro­vided Aus­tralia with a sig­nif­i­cant op­por­tu­nity to boost its econ­omy.

“Peo­ple are less in­ter­ested in own­ing things and are be­com­ing more in­ter­ested in ex­pe­ri­ences,” he said.

“They see travel as part of life rather than a lux­ury that you only do when you can af­ford it.”

As lead­ers in their in­dus­tries, both men said they wanted to voice their op­po­si­tion pub­licly to the mine and a po­ten­tial $1 bil­lion con­ces­sional loan that the North­ern Aus­tralia In­fra­struc­ture Fa­cil­ity is con­sid­er­ing.

“There are lots of tourism busi­nesses in Aus­tralia and it’s hard for them to get to­gether and speak with one voice, we hope to speak up for them,” Mr Manch­ester said. “We are a pri­vate, sig­nif­i­cantly sized com­pany and I feel we have a duty to speak out against it.

“Hope­fully this will make other com­pa­nies feel more com­fort­able about speak­ing out as well.”

Mr Manch­ester said tourism was the big­gest em­ployer in Aus­tralia.

“It seems wrong to be threat­en­ing the (tourism) in­dus­try, and wrong to be sub­si­dis­ing the (coal) in­dus­try.”

Their re­marks come as an­other en­tre­pre­neur warned Aus­tralia’s econ­omy had se­ri­ous prob­lems.

In anal­y­sis pub­lished this week Matt Bar­rie and Craig Tin­dale pointed out that coal con­sump­tion in China had dropped three years in a row, and in Jan­uary 2017, 100 coal-fired power plants were can­celled.

“China has an­nounced that it is spend­ing a whop­ping $360 bil­lion on re­new­ables through 2020, and this year is im­ple­ment­ing the world’s big­gest cap-and-trade car­bon mar­ket to curb emis­sions,” the au­thors noted.

“Blind to the re­al­ity of this sit­u­a­tion, Aus­tralia is ramp­ing up coal pro­duc­tion while China com­mits to end­ing coal im­ports in the very near fu­ture in what can only be de­scribed as a last-ditch “dig it up now, or never” sit­u­a­tion.”

Ac­cord­ing to the Aus­tralian Bu­reau of Statis­tics, in 2015-16 the en­tire Aus­tralian min­ing in­dus­try, which in­cludes coal, oil and gas, iron ore, the min­ing of metal­lic and non­metal­lic min­er­als and ex­plo­ration and sup­port ser­vices made $179 bil­lion in rev­enue.

But it had $171 bil­lion in costs, which meant it de­liv­ered an op­er­at­ing profit be­fore tax of $7 bil­lion – rep­re­sent­ing a wafer thin 3.9 per cent mar­gin on an op­er­at­ing ba­sis.

“Col­lec­tively, the en­tire Aus­tralian min­ing in­dus­try (ex-ser­vices) would be loss mak­ing in 2016-17 if rev­enue con­tin­ued to drop and costs stayed the same,” the au­thors said. Mr Myer said com­pa­nies like BHP were now get­ting out of coal as­sets be­cause they could see the writ­ing on the wall.

“China and In­dia both have to, and are, de­car­bon­is­ing their economies,” he said.

“So the no­tion that Adani is go­ing to build this mine and pro­duce 60 mil­lion tonnes a year (of coal), it’s delu­sional.”

In­stead of giv­ing Adani a $1 bil­lion tax­payer-funded loan, Mr Myer said putting the money to­wards some­thing like a Tesla Gi­gafac­tory to pro­duce lithium-ion bat­ter­ies, would cre­ate far more long term jobs than a coal mine.

Geoff Manch­ester of In­trepid Travel, left, and right, Michael Myer of Myer depart­ment stores.

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