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‘Beyond a farce’: Palaszczuk’s Adani ultimatum comes under fire

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The issue of the controversial mine, slated for the Galilee Basin in central Queensland, has dogged both state and federal Labor for some time, coming to a head in the federal election where it was pointed to as a reason for Bill Shorten’s loss to Scott Morrison and the Coalition.

Ms Palaszczuk admitted voters appeared to be fed up with the ongoing delays over Adani’s Carmichael coal mine.

“I sense the frustration of the community. I am frustrated. I think everyone has had a gutful quite frankly,” she said.

“I think that everyone was hoping that it would have happened, and frankly, it hasn’t. And I’m as disappointed as everyone else.”

But federal Resources Minister Matt Canavan said Ms Palaszczuk was hiding behind the process and was still refusing to make a decision.

“If the Premier says today she’s fed up with the lack of progress on Adani the Premier needs to answer how long has she been fed up with her own government and why hasn’t she done something about it before today,” Senator Canavan said.

“The Premier has announced today that the solution to jobs in north and central Queensland is to have a meeting.

“This is something that is out of the Life of Brian, this is something that is Pythonesque. It’s beyond a farce now.”

Queensland Opposition Leader Deb Frecklington agreed, saying Ms Palaszczuk had been dodging the issue of Adani for too long.

“Annastacia Palaszczuk needs to stop shifting the goalposts and give some job security to the people of Queensland,” Ms Frecklington said.

Adani’s Australian chief executive Lucas Dow said before the Premier’s announcement that the state government should take a lesson from the federal election loss.

“It was a pretty resounding message particularly if you look at the booth results… areas that were traditional Labor strongholds had a very strong turn out for the likes of One Nation and the Coalition,” Mr Dow said.

Adani protestors direct chants to Opposition Leader Bill Shorten during the federal election campaign

Adani protestors direct chants to Opposition Leader Bill Shorten during the federal election campaignCredit:Alex Ellinghausen

“We have an industry that is Australia’s largest export, it is time for politicians to get in behind our industry rather than sitting an lobbing grenades at us.”

Mr Dow said Adani wanted clear parameters from the government on what needed to be resolved and a timetable.

“It is for the Queensland Premier and Deputy Premier to listen to what Queensland is saying. We want the government to stop playing games and get on with it,” he said.

The Premier appeared to be distancing herself from her federal Labor colleagues on Wednesday, making a pitch to voters in the region that her government was listening.

“I am really sorry that Labor let you down. I am really sorry that happened,” Ms Palaszczuk said.

“We are up to this challenge. We work every day focusing on jobs.”

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But Queensland’s only state Greens MP, Michael Berkman, warned Ms Palaszczuk not to take the wrong lesson from the federal election result.

“Queensland Labor intends to fast track Adani’s approvals for the Carmichael Coal project – this says to me that they’ve quite devastatingly misinterpreted the results of the federal election,” he said.

“We need good solid planning for jobs that account for the eventual phase out of thermal coal.”

Mr Berkman said a focus on renewable energy should be the priority for regional Queensland.

Mackay Region Chamber of Commerce president Victoria Gracie said they remained “sceptical” about the Premier’s announcement, while Queensland Resources Council chief Ian Macfarlane said the patience of the region would be “severely tested” if nothing came of Friday’s meeting

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Ms Palaszczuk personally vetoed a federal government loan to the mine during the 2017 state election campaign, stating initially it was because her then-partner Shaun Drabsch was involved in the loan process in his role at PriceWaterhouse Coopers.

She later said she had vetoed the loan to ensure a promise she had made that no taxpayer funds would be spent on the mine was kept, with the government’s line after that consistently stating the Adani project had to “stack up financially.”

More recently the mine has been held up by two environmental approvals which were waved through by the federal coalition government but sat on by Queensland’s Labor government.

The first was the groundwater management plan, which it has been revealed the CSIRO was asked to approve in the space of a single afternoon.

The second is the habitat management for the black-throated finch, which has one of its only remaining viable habitats directly over the proposed mine site.

There are concerns Adani’s management plan does not take into account what would actually be a viable habitat for the birds, with their proposed alternate habitat also subject to separate unrelated mining leases.

Ms Palaszczuk was dogged by anti-Adani protestors during the 2017 election campaign, however despite the issue managed to increase her lead over the LNP and see Labor form government in its own right after a term as a minority government.

Stuart Layt covers health, science and technology for the Brisbane Times. He was formerly the Queensland political reporter for AAP.

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