The Courier-Mail

Gree­nies stink a threat to trade

- RE­NEE VIELLARIS

GREE­NIES who used a skink as a “patsy” to help kill off a coal mine in Queens­land could have dam­aged free-trade agree­ment ne­go­ti­a­tions with In­dia, ac­cord­ing to Trade Min­is­ter An­drew Robb.

Yesterday he re­vealed Prime Min­is­ter Tony Ab­bott and In­dian Prime Min­is­ter Naren­dra Modi wanted to con­clude an FTA but he was wor­ried about “law­fare” by en­vi­ron­men­tal­ists.

“It was ‘law­fare’ brought about by ac­tivist groups to whom the skink is a patsy,” Mr Robb said yesterday. “They wanted to kill the (In­dian min­ing gi­ant Adani’s $16.5 bil­lion coal mine in cen­tral Queens­land) pro­ject be­cause they don’t like fos­sil fu­els.

“You think that’s not go­ing to change In­dia’s ap­petite to get an agree­ment with Aus­tralia this year? It makes it all the more dif­fi­cult.”

Mr Robb hit out at the ac­tivists af­ter In­dian High Com­mis­sioner Navdeep Suri raised con­cerns with him re­cently over the re­scind­ing of ap­proval for the Adani mine.

The Fed­eral Court re­cently set aside the ap­proval of the coal mine be­cause it found En­vi­ron­ment Min­is­ter Greg Hunt had not con­sid­ered ad­vice about the yakka skink and the or­na­men­tal snake.

Mr Robb also hit out at unions for scare­mon­ger­ing about the Gov­ern­ment’s free­trade agree­ment with China.

“(On Tues­day) the Elec­tri­cal Trade Union ran so-called robo-calls into tens of thou­sands of house­holds in my 66,000-house­hold elec­torate,” he said. “The recorded tele­phone mes­sage ma­li­ciously as­serted that the FTA that I have ne­go­ti­ated with China per­mit­ted un­qual­i­fied elec­tri­cians to in­vade Aus­tralia, putting the safety of Aus­tralians at ... risk.

“Of course, the ETU knows full well this is a lie, yet they con­tinue to ped­dle this scare­mon­ger­ing to (the) Aus­tralian com­mu­nity. I ask you: Why would I put the safety of my fel­low Aus­tralians at risk?

“Nor would I do any­thing that threat­ens the jobs of Aus­tralians. It ex­plains why the labour pro­vi­sions as­so­ci­ated with the China FTA sits within our ex­ist­ing skilled visa pro­gram – not a sin­gle leg­isla­tive change is re­quired.”

La­bor is re­fus­ing to re­veal whether it would use a back­door mech­a­nism to kill the FTA with China.

Op­po­si­tion trade spokes­woman Penny Wong yesterday re­leased an opin­ion piece on whether the agree­ment was in the na­tional in­ter­est.

“Tony Ab­bott has a rep­u­ta­tion for break­ing prom­ises – and safe­guards in Aus­tralia’s tem­po­rary mi­gra­tion sys­tem may be set to be­come the latest,” Sen­a­tor Wong said.

“La­bor will seek to main­tain crit­i­cal safe­guards in re­sponse to the labour move­ment pro­vi­sions in the China-Aus­tralia free-trade agree­ment.”

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