After much dithering on the issue, Bill Shorten declared that he does not support Adani’s proposed coal mine in Queensland’s Galilee Basin in March. Cynically however, he also said that a Labor government also wouldn’t seek to cancel the project.
Shorten justifies this two-faced position by suggesting that the tearing up of agreements would scare off future investors. Clearly, he thinks that big business profits are more important than our environment!
Labor are clearly coming under pressure as the campaign to stop Adani ramps up. This monstrous pollution machine threatens to destroy the Great Barrier Reef and unleash a greater amount of carbon dioxide each year than the annual fossil fuel emissions of over 100 countries!
Shorten has different positions in relation to the mine depending on who he is speaking to.
For example, during the recent Batman by-election campaign, where Labor were up against the Greens who oppose the project, Shorten tried to talk up the “environmental concerns” that Labor supposedly has about the mine.
On the other hand, when Shorten is visiting North Queensland he declares that Labor “are the party of miners”. He is hoping to have a bet each way.
The main argument of those who support the project is that it would create jobs. There is no doubt this is true. Jobs however can be created in many different industries. There is no reason that we should only accept jobs in polluting industries like coal.
We should demand clean, green sustainable jobs, particularly in places like North Queensland where jobs are currently scarce. Labor however have been unable to articulate an alternative plan for jobs in the region.
Their main concern is winning marginal Queensland seats at the next federal election, so in this part of the world they keep their “environmental concerns” hidden.
It is absolutely cowardly for Labor to suggest that – if they win the next election – they will honour any agreements that are in place. If the current government has agreed to a dodgy deal that is set to wreck our environment why shouldn’t it be annulled?
Shorten throws around the term ‘sovereign risk’ in an attempt to evade responsibility and suggest that big business agreements are sacrosanct.
The whole ‘sovereign risk’ argument is essentially a threat from corporations to punish any government that dares to overturn dodgy decisions. These corporations consider it their God-given right to make profits regardless of the impact on human lives and the environment.
Hiding behind this argument only exposes the Labor Party as a staunch defender of corporate greed.
At the same time the so-called threat of ‘sovereign risk’ has been debunked before. There are multiple examples where the cancelling of contracts has not had any real impact on the economy or discouraged businesses from investing.
A recent example was the East-West tunnel in Victoria, which was scrapped by the Labor state government under pressure from below. The banks and major infrastructure firms behind that project did not flee, they instead just put their money into other profit-making ventures.
Any government which truly had the interests of workers at heart would, however, not leave things up the market in the first place. Investment can be carried out publicly and democratically, there is no reason we have to rely on self-interested capitalist investors. The government should plan for public investment in green jobs to ease the crisis in Queensland and elsewhere.
While it is important to expose the Adani mine as an environmental time bomb, the key to defeating it lies in providing an alternative to the claim that it will be a job creator.
Only socialist solutions are capable of both protecting the environment and creating well paid, sustainable jobs in the places they are needed.
The Socialist Party calls for investment into North Queensland renewable energy projects and socially useful infrastructure like public housing and public transport services.
If the key sectors of the economy were brought into public ownership and control we would be in a position to carry out a proper plan whereby we used our resources and labour to advance the living standards of everyone rather than lining the pockets of big businesses.
By Triet Tran