Premier mixes mes­sages on Adani

The Weekend Australian - - QUEENSLAND DECIDES - MICHAEL McKENNA JAMIE WALKER

The Queens­land cabi­net de­cided in May to veto Adani’s ap­pli­ca­tion for a $1 bil­lion fed­eral loan for a rail­way for its Carmichael coalmine, rais­ing new ques­tions about why An­nasta­cia Palaszczuk’s La­bor govern­ment con­tin­ued to pro­fess sup­port for the pro­posal un­til her about-face last week.

Se­nior state govern­ment sources have con­firmed to The Week­end Aus­tralian that min­is­ters re­solved to walk away from the Adani loan bid to the North Aus­tralia In­fra­struc­ture Fa­cil­ity on May 26, at a cri­sis meet­ing of the state cabi­net that thrashed out a roy­alty agree­ment for the mine.

“The de­ci­sion was made to have no in­volve­ment in the NAIF loan, which meant that it could not go ahead,’’ a source said.

“But af­ter cabi­net and the press con­fer­ence, the de­ci­sion just seemed to be wound back.’’

Min­is­ters were perplexed when Treasurer Cur­tis Pitt con­tin­ued to pub­licly talk up the In­dian com­pany’s case for the line of credit and wrote to fed­eral Re­sources Min­is­ter Matt Cana­van re­quest­ing the NAIF loan ap­proval process be fast-tracked to sup­port ma­jor projects in Queens­land.

A joint me­dia re­lease by Ms Palaszczuk, Mr Pitt and Deputy Premier Jackie Trad on May 27 ap­peared to con­firm that the govern­ment would not han­dle the NAIF loan. “Con­sis­tent with our elec­tion com­mit­ments, cabi­net has de­ter­mined that any NAIF fund­ing needs to be be­tween the fed­eral govern­ment and Adani,” the state­ment said.

On May 29, Mr Pitt cre­ated more con­fu­sion when he said: “We will not stand in the way of those ar­range­ments. In the case of the Carmichael mine, any funds will pass from the fed­eral govern­ment to Adani. We will ful­fil our obli­ga­tions in line with the Mas­ter Fa­cil­ity Agree­ment agreed with the fed­eral govern­ment.”

Un­der the NAIF process, Queens­land would have ad­min­is­tered any loan granted to Adani by the fed­eral govern­ment fi­nancier. But the Premier pulled the pin on this last Fri­day, Novem­ber 3, when she an­nounced the veto be­cause of a pos­si­ble con­flict of in­ter­est from her part­ner, Shaun Drab­sch, hav­ing worked on the loan ap­pli­ca­tion for Adani through con­sul­tants Price­wa­ter­house­Coop­ers.

Last night a spokesman for Ms Palaszczuk in­sisted the NAIF loan had not been blocked by cabi­net in May, but de­clined to com­ment fur­ther. “You’re wrong,” he said.

The is­sue is sen­si­tive for La­bor as Ms Palaszczuk has been ac­cused of pan­der­ing to the Greens, who are go­ing af­ter the ALP in in­ner Bris­bane seats in­clud­ing that of Ms Trad over its sup­port for the Adani mine, while keep­ing faith with regional com­mu­ni­ties who want the jobs it would bring.

The mine has also stirred fac­tional ten­sions, with left MPs and min­is­ters aligned with Ms Trad deeply re­luc­tant to em­brace it.

The Premier has said the veto also re­flected La­bor’s 2015 elec­tion com­mit­ment that it would not spend tax­pay­ers’ money build­ing a rail­way link to the pro­posed mine.

Ms Trad can­celled an in­ter­view with The Week­end Aus­tralian at short no­tice yes­ter­day on what is un­der­stood to be the ad­vice of La­bor’s cam­paign team, which in­cludes for­mer Adani lob­by­ist Cameron Mil­ner.

Step­ping up his at­tack on Ms Palaszczuk for re­fus­ing to re­lease the terms of the roy­alty agree­ment with Adani, Lib­eral Na­tional Party leader Tim Ni­cholls said the Premier’s cred­i­bil­ity was “in tat­ters”.

“She said there’d be no se­cret deals, and she’s done a se­cret deal on roy­al­ties,” he said in Toowoomba. “This is about the fourth or fifth time we’ve seen the Premier worm and squeal and try and dodge her way out of an­swer­ing le­git­i­mate ques­tions.”

Ms Palaszczuk re­fused to elab­o­rate on her as­ser­tion on Thurs­day that the fund­ing of a rail link to the mine was an is­sue for the fed­eral govern­ment. “It is a mat­ter for the fed­eral govern­ment. They have an in­fra­struc­ture fund them­selves; if they de­cide to do that, they can — that’s a mat­ter for Malcolm Turn­bull.”

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