Coal mining behemoth Adani’s announcement that construction is “imminent” on a scaled-back, self-financed version of its proposed Carmichael mine helped propel over 15,000 school students to walk out of class in November last year. Openly defying the Morrison government, the students demanded immediate action to prevent catastrophic climate change.
This hugely significant action, highlighting the growing politicisation of a new layer of young people, has reinvigorated the climate movement. Thousands of people attended further protests the following week in cities around Australia. Adani has become a focal point, representing everything wrong with a system that is prepared to sacrifice the future of humanity to satisfy the endless greed of one of the world’s most corrupt corporations.
The publicity and popular sympathy generated by the students’ strike has not stopped Adani from bullishly pushing ahead. Earthmoving equipment was moved onto the mine site in Queensland’s Galilee Basin shortly before Christmas. Illegal groundwater bores have already been discovered, despite the Queensland government’s rejection of Adani’s Groundwater Management Plan!
Adani is rushing to begin construction on the mine because it anticipates it can put pressure on a likely incoming Shorten Labor government to allow it to continue. Adani is confident that if significant funding is already committed and works have commenced, Labor will not bow to public pressure to shut it down.
Behind cynical fake opposition to the mine, Labor is signalling to Adani that it won’t stand in the way of its plans. On the same day as the student walkout, Bill Shorten told the Sydney Morning Herald: “We don’t know what they’ll be up to by the time we get into government. So we’ll deal with facts and the situation we’re presented with if we win the election in 24 weeks’ time […] Of course we’re not interested in sovereign risk or breaking contracts.”
Shorten’s assurance that Labor would not rip up Adani’s contracts if they were signed before the federal election illustrates the ALP’s commitment above all else to the profit interests of big business. The Carmichael mine is so dubious that the vast majority of investors have no interest in it. However, the reality is that although scrapping the mine would have next to no impact on the broader economy, it will take a determined mass struggle to put an end to it.
It is therefore crucial to build on the momentum of the student walkout with an escalating national campaign, drawing in the widest possible layer of young and working people. Activists have rightly targeted the Labor Party, with protesters disrupting the ALP national conference and a sit-down protest occurring outside Bill Shorten’s office in Melbourne.
These actions could be taken further. There are numerous finance, engineering and construction firms already involved with or likely to be approached by Adani. A coordinated national day of action, involving rallies that actively blockade the offices of these companies in each city, would send a very strong message to Labor and the business world that Adani will be a major headache!
A similar strategy was adopted by the victorious community campaign against the East-West Tunnel in Victoria, which forced the Labor state government to tear up dodgy contracts and increase spending on public transport.
Mass mobilisations against Adani could be strengthened by linking the urgency of climate action with the need for jobs, especially in depressed areas like regional Queensland. Instead of private investment into dirty coal, thousands of jobs could be created through public investment into renewable energy research and production, as well as new infrastructure.
This could be paid for by raising taxes on the rich and taking Australia’s 200 largest companies into public ownership, using their profits to meet social and environmental needs. Outlining an alternative plan like this for green jobs would undermine what’s left of Adani’s support base, and provide the movement with more concrete demands to organise around.
The fight to stop Adani is just one battle against capitalism’s relentless pursuit of profit, no matter the human and environmental cost. Saving the planet will require broadening this into a struggle for a fundamentally different society, in which democratic socialist planning of the economy ensures a prosperous future for us all.
By Jeremy Trott