All sides scoring own goals as mine becomes political football
DANI’S Carmichael megamine is now no longer about economics, demand or prosperity – it has become about politics, activism and a little about democracy.
But mostly it’s about spin and image-building.
The myths and lies spread about this project deep in the heart of central Queensland grazing country are piling up, and if Adani does walk it could well be because governments have meekly surrendered control of the debate and, apart from a few exceptions, the industry has been caught napping.
For example, how does a coal port end up needing three environmental-impact statements and three different plans over three governments?
But let’s start with coal. It’s not dying. It’s in a cyclical price trough and losing market share, but it probably has 30 years of life left considering the massive demand residing in Asian power generation.
The International Energy Agency said in 2014 that global thermal coal production for power generation decreased by 0.9 per cent, coking coal production was up 2.6 per cent. Exports were also up.
No one expects it will last forever, though.
Then there is the spin over Adani’s figures of 10,000 jobs. This is an economic analysis of the direct and indirect impact of the mine’s construction and operation workforce – they are always a little questionable.
Adani has at least been truthful about this. The direct job number it uses is 4000 in construction. That’s for around two years, but is still valid and used widely by all industry.
The green groups claim this, too, is a lie and have been throwing around evidence from Land Court hearings where the company’s own expert, Dr Jerome Fahrer, says there would only be 1400 jobs.
Both are right. The 1400 is for the operation of the mine, and Adani has been careful to distinguish between them. Politicians may not have been so succinct, but 10,000 is a great line to throw around when jobs are a key issue. The disparity between 10,000 and 1400 is even better for the agenda of green groups. But it’s really spin.
They don’t mention the same expert’s evidence that the change in Queensland’s economy over the 30 years is $60 billion, and real income of $35 billion.
Then there is the legal issue. A rash of press releases flooded newsrooms around the country claiming the Adani mining approval has been overturned, and environmentalists cheered a massive victory.
The truth is the mining approval was set aside, and the backlash of the outcome has become a major headache for greens.
The knee-jerk reaction from the Federal Government to restrict greens’ ability to take legal action is punitive, undemocratic, stupid, shortterm politics. The State Government is at least right about that.
Learning how to approve projects quickly is a better route and maybe cutting back the massive amount of paperwork would help. After