The Queensland Labor government’s decision to support the Adani corporation opening the $21.7 billion Carmichael mine near Rockhampton is a major mistake. This will be one of the biggest coal extraction projects anywhere on the planet and a huge risk to the environment.
The mine is still facing several legal challenges as environmentalists raise concerns about the damage it will cause, yet Labor have sided with big business claiming the project is “critical infrastructure”. They have plans to give the mine unlimited water access for the next 60 years!
Adani and the government claim the mine will create about 10,000 jobs across regional Queensland but many analysts have said that this figure is wildly exaggerated. Even if true, this mine would impact the Great Barrier Reef and has the potential to destroy tens of thousands of tourism jobs. From an employment perspective alone, it shows why the trade union movement should be opposed to the project.
If the Carmichael mine goes ahead, it will unleash 128 million tons of carbon dioxide each year. This is the equivalent of a quarter of Australia’s total emissions from fuel combustion. Already global warming is killing the Reef, and the Carmichael mine is planned to operate for 90 years, further contributing to the problem. With reefs around the world facing extinction within decades, this is a risk that cannot be taken.
Questions are now being asked about the Queensland government’s irresponsible approval of the project. Why does an environmentally devastating, and job destroying project, have the full support of both Labor and the Liberal National Party?
Once again, we see the major parties servicing the needs of their financial backers. Mining companies such as Adani routinely donate to the major political parties. Not only has this helped them get approval, but in this case, it explains why such an unpopular project is able to receive a near $1 billion handout of public money to finance a mine that many commercial banks won’t touch.
Making matters worse, the federal resources minister Matt Canavan cynically claims Queensland is “under attack” from environmental activists who have brought court cases against the mine. In response, the government is attempting to amend the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act, removing the right of most environmental organisations and other groups to challenge developments unless they can show they are “directly affected”.
In debates about how to protect the environment, some activists have claimed that climate politics would transcend the old divisions between left and right. They said that the fact that even the wealthiest of us still had to live on the same planet meant that they could be won over in the fight to preserve it. Unfortunately, the Carmichael mine case shows this approach is mistaken.
Socialists argue that the environment has always been a class issue. Climate change will hurt the poor and the working class disproportionately. The rich and the powerful are much better placed to insulate themselves from the impacts of climate change. On the basis of capitalism, profiteers will continue to treat nature as an inexhaustible resource to be endlessly abused.
Despite the fact that most of the powers that be support the mine, there is mounting resistance to Adani. This gives us hope as it has been people power that has defended many of our most important ecological sites in the past.
A mass struggle against Adani, and all of the corporate interests behind the mine, could be an opportunity to raise the level of discussion about global warming with working people. Fostering an appreciation of the Great Barrier Reef as part of our global environment could help to win working people to the idea that we have common interests across national borders. We need to stand united against the corporations and the politicians that are destroying the planet.
The Socialist Party supports the campaign to stop the Adani coal mine but goes further, arguing that the entire coal industry needs to be put into public hands. That way we could democratically organise a rapid transition to renewable energy while protecting jobs. At the same time, we could implement a plan to properly address the health of the Great Barrier Reef.
By Amy Neve