Townsville Bulletin - - OPINION -

WHETHER it pleases you to read this or not, Adani is com­ing to Townsville. The signs are up, the hands have been shaken, the rib­bons have been cut and the job ads have started ap­pear­ing in the news­pa­per. It’s hap­pen­ing.

But few out­side the po­lit­i­cal sphere re­alise how close the Palaszczuk La­bor State Gov­ern­ment came to fluff­ing the Next Big Thing for the North back in May.

I’m talk­ing about the now in­fa­mous roy­al­ties re­volt, that for­get­table cou­ple of weeks when Premier An­nasta­cia Palaszczuk’s trusted in­sid­ers turned on her and re­fused to mint a roy­al­ties ar­range­ment to se­cure the In­dian miner’s com­mit­ment to its $ 16.5 bil­lion Carmichael mine.

The pro­gres­sive me­dia went into rap­tures and green ac­tivist so­cial me­dia pages lit up: Adani had been stopped again and there was a good chance the project would be aban­doned al­to­gether.

But what GetUp! and oth­ers cel­e­brated as a thump­ing vic­tory is look­ing very sus­pi­ciously like an in­sid­i­ous demon­stra­tion of The Greens flex­ing their po­lit­i­cal mus­cle and lever­ag­ing their tight­en­ing grip on the Queens­land La­bor Party.

It was also a ter­ri­ble em­bar­rass­ment for Ms Palaszczuk, who had copped a lot of heat over her strong pub­lic state­ments in sup­port of the Carmichael project and hav­ing taken re­gional may­ors to In­dia late last year, where she fa­mously stared down well- heeled ac­tivists who tried to dis­rupt meet­ings with Adani.

Much like the great draglines in our coal basins, Adani has me­thod­i­cally and pur­pose­fully steam­rolled through dozens of green­led chal­lenges over many years and is ar­guably past the point of no re­turn.

Hav­ing run out of le­gal and reg­u­la­tory ammo, the ac­tivists have turned their at­ten­tion to sham­ing big banks and, cru­cially, politi­cians and par­ties that refuse to pub­licly state their op­po­si­tion to coal.

This is not a con­spir­acy the­ory; we’ve all seen the ban­ners… “ALP in bed with Adani”, the cam­paign against the big banks, etc. Ac­tivists will at­tack any­one they think should be join­ing the anti- coal ji­had, in­clud­ing even the ALP.

But while most Queens­lan­ders, and es­pe­cially North Queens­lan­ders, have no rea­son to con­cern them­selves with the sit- ins and chant­ing of ac­tivists, there are sev­eral politi­cians in the south­east who have good rea­son to be con­cerned.

A reader helped com­pile some sta­tis­tics from the last elec­tion that might go some way to ex­plain­ing what’s hap­pen­ing in the ALP’s Queens­land branch.

Ms Palaszczuk swept to power in a stun­ning turn­around af­ter a strong anti- as­set- sales cam­paign fa­tally wounded the embattled Camp­bell New­man LNP ad­min­is­tra­tion.

The ALP went from sin­gle dig­its to al­most an out­right ma­jor­ity in the Queens­land Par­lia­ment, but didn’t quite do enough to form gov­ern­ment in its own right.

Of the 42 seats La­bor can­di­dates se­cured, 32 re­lied on pref­er­ences from The Greens to get them home.

In the 17- mem­ber Cab­i­net ( 14 of whom rep­re­sent south­east Queens­land elec­torates, by the way), 11 min­is­ters can thank The Greens for their jobs and five of those, in­clud­ing Mund­ing­burra MP Co­ralee O’Rourke, trailed their LNP ri­vals on pri­mary votes be­fore Greens pref­er­ences got them across the line.

It is not con­tro­ver­sial to claim the ALP is be­holden to The Greens; it’s an elec­toral fact.

So when the Cab­i­net came to de­cid­ing roy­al­ties ar­range­ments for Adani, is it be­yond rea­son to sus­pect the gree­nies may have re­minded cer­tain min­is­ters of their in­flu­ence?

As his­tory showed, af­ter an em­bar­rass­ing few days of pub­lic state­ments and a grand proclamation – fol­lowed by a stun­ning back­flip – that La­bor wouldn’t be party to a North­ern Aus­tralia In­fra­struc­ture Fa­cil­ity loan for Adani’s rail line, fi­nally nor­mal trans­mis­sion re­sumed and the deal was struck.

I was born in Char­ters Tow­ers, grew up in Bowen and have been back in the North for a few years af­ter spend­ing a decade or so based in south­east Queens­land.

For al­most all my life, La­bor has dom­i­nated pol­i­tics in Queens­land and most of the com­mu­ni­ties I’ve been a part of have been full of “rusted on” La­bor vot­ers – hard work­ers who want gov­ern­ments to get out of their way and let them pro­vide for their fam­i­lies.

But hav­ing ob­served the de­ba­cle over Adani’s roy­al­ties, I hon­estly don’t be­lieve this mod­ern La­bor lead­er­ship, apart from the Premier her­self, truly rep­re­sents any of the com­mu­ni­ties I’ve been part of.

My mates are proud La­bor vot­ers but are re­ally ide­o­log­i­cal op­po­sites to the types of in­ner- city vot­ers the party in­creas­ingly tar­gets with its emo­tional and ar­guably reck­less em­brace of trendy mod­ern causes.

The gap be­tween the groups of vot­ers is a sign of the grow­ing dis­con­tent among vot­ers that was men­tioned last week and feed­ing the trend of re­jec­tion of ma­jor par­ties as “old La­bor” vot­ers look for can­di­dates who more closely align with their own tra­di­tional val­ues.

Ms Palaszczuk has proven her­self a friend of North Queens­land but the Adani roy­al­ties saga has ex­posed an ugly divi­sion within her own Cab­i­net that could prove fa­tal.

CLOSE CALL: Premier An­nasta­cia Palaszczuk with Adani Aus­tralia CEO Jeyaku­mar Janakaraj in Townsville. Pic­ture: TARA CROSER

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