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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