Adani won't get any taxpayers' money, Annastacia Palaszczuk says

Coalmine controversy continues to haunt Labor in Queensland as One Nation creates potential post-election headache for LNP

Almost three weeks after the decision to veto the Adani rail line loan overtook Labor’s election campaign, Annastacia Palaszczuk hesitantly agreed not to fund any infrastructure for the mine on Wednesday.

Labor is seeking to strike a balance between opposition to the mine from voters in the state’s south-east and support for it in regional Queensland, which sees it as a much-needed economic boost.

While committing to not facilitating or giving approval for funding for the rail line, Palaszczuk said she didn’t think Labor would be willing to put any taxpayer money towards any other associated infrastructure.

“I don’t think so – we said no taxpayers’ money would go towards it,” she said from Toowoomba, west of Brisbane, on Wednesday.

But on Thursday the premier was unable to answer how Labor would handle local government funding requests.

The mayor of Isaac, Anne Baker, whose council takes in the Carmichael mine site, told the Australian newspaper her local government could not afford an estimated $100m to upgrade the roads leading to the coal project.

Baker said she had been in discussions with the state government since February. Palaszczuk said she had not personally spoken to Baker about the issue.

“Let me make it very clear,” Palaszczuk said from the Sunshine Coast. “There are no taxpayer funds going to the Adani mine.”

She would not answer questions about whether or not that ban included funding the council to upgrade the roads, calling it a “hypothetical” situation. She did not rule out spending money on the roads, while insisting no taxpayer funds would be used.

“I can actually say that, because I have made that commitment, OK,” she said.

“But in relation to councils, councils will always talk to state governments about their needs and their priorities. That doesn’t mean that the state government says yes. Sometimes they say yes, sometimes they say no.”

When asked again about the Isaac council road infrastructure, which is specifically for the mine site, Palaszczuk grew frustrated.

“I am ruling out no taxpayer funds going directly to the mine, full stop. I’ve said that at length … I’m not dealing with hypotheticals.”

Meanwhile, One Nation’s fierce opposition to public funding for Adani is also causing a potential headache for the Liberal National party. On Wednesday Pauline Hanson joined One Nation’s state leader, Steve Dickson, in guaranteeing any deal struck with the major parties to form government would be contingent on them abandoning support for the $1bn loan to the Indian mining giant.

The non-negotiable condition would seriously threaten the Liberal National party’s ability to take office, as polls predict it can win only with the minor party’s help.

Dickson, an LNP defector, said rejecting a taxpayer loan to Adani would “absolutely” be a condition of his party’s support. Hanson told Australian Associated Press she fully supported Dickson’s comments and reiterated her belief that Australians should own the rail line.

The LNP leader, Tim Nicholls, dodged questions about whether he would be prepared to veto the loan in exchange for One Nation’s support. “I’m not going to deal with hypotheticals and what may or may not be in the future,” he said in Townsville. “We are in this to win it.”

Labor has agreed to a royalties holiday for Adani but has refused to release any details of the agreement, citing “commercial in confidence”. But Palaszczuk maintains the royalties deal is not a taxpayer subsidy, despite the desperate need for funds in a state which is headed towards being $81bn in debt.

“It’s not, because all the royalties will be paid back in full with interest,” the premier said. “They’re going to get the royalties anyway, Queenslanders are going to share in the benefits of the royalties … and with interest.”

After announcing it had held “productive meetings with a wide range of financiers”, believed to be Chinese, Adani reiterated its desire for the billion-dollar loan from the northern Australia infrastructure facility.

Palaszczuk in effect torpedoed the loan this month when she announced that her government would not give the necessary approval for any Naif loan to go to Adani, after her partner was revealed to have worked on the loan application.

Labor still supports the mine itself, with Palaszczuk repeatedly saying Adani has all the necessary approvals to move ahead with the project, as well as referring to earlier comments from Adani that it did not need the loan to begin work.

On Wednesday Adani weighed in to say it did need the loan. “Adani has not sought to become a subject of contention in the current Queensland election campaign,” a spokesman said. “However this does not negate the need for support from the federal and state governments, including a Naif loan, every cent of which will be repaid by Adani with interest.”

Australian Associated Press contributed to this report


Amy Remeikis

The GuardianTramp

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