Queensland accused of breaking ‘no public funds for Adani’ promise

Activists target Aurizon after Palaszczuk refuses to rule out vetoing freight company’s application for Naif funding to build rail line

The former Queensland state-owned freight rail business Aurizon is the latest target of anti-Adani activists, after the Palaszczuk Labor government refused to rule out vetoing the company’s taxpayer-funded loan to build the Galilee basin rail line.

Opponents of the mine have accused the state government of attempting to break its promise of “no public funds for Adani’ through a “backdoor” by continuing to consider Aurizon’s application for federal government funds to build the central Queensland rail line.

The rail line is considered a key piece of infrastructure in opening the central Queensland region up to mining and would ultimately boost Adani’s prospects for opening its controversial mine.

During Queensland’s election campaign in November, the Queensland premier, Annastacia Palaszczuk, announced Labor would veto any loan from the Northern Australia Infrastructure Fund (Naif) to Adani to build the rail line from the Galilee basin to the Gladstone port.

Under Naif rules, the state has to agree for the funds to be spent. The veto was seen as helping win crucial votes in the state’s south-east – where support for the Adani coalmine, once billed as the largest in the southern hemisphere, is low – and was considered instrumental in saving deputy premier Jackie Trad’s seat.

While the Adani loan is considered dead, Aurizon put in its own application to Naif in March 2017 to build the rail line, which would allow not only Adani but GVK Hancock and Clive Palmer to potentially move forward with their mining interests in the area.

Ben Pennings, who is challenging Larissa Waters and Andrew Bartlett for the Queensland Greens’ Senate spot, said the Galillee Blockade group, which was instrumental in lobbying against the Adani Naif loan, would now turn its attention to Aurizon.

Trad, now the Queensland treasurer, was the first target, with a six-foot tall mascot, the “veto mosquito”, launched to follow state government MPs around until the Aurizon loan is also scuttled.

“Labor promised no public funds would be used to help this mine,” Pennings said. “They are now looking at helping Adani through the backdoor, which is what this Aurizon loan would be.

“It was a clear promise – no public funds for Adani. We are confident they will see sense and also veto this loan, so no public money goes to this mine either through the back or front door.

“We shouldn’t have to hassle them to keep their promises but here we are.”

A spokeswoman for Palaszczuk said the Naif loan that Adani had applied for had been vetoed, meeting the premier’s election commitment. But the government remained uncommitted on any further loan applications for the rail line.

“Any other Naif loan will be assessed on its merits,” she said.

The federal resources minister, Matt Canavan, strongly supports the mine. He attacked the state Labor government over its decision to veto the Adani loan and remains one of the firmest advocates for opening the basin up to mining.

A spokeswoman for Aurizon confirmed the company had lodged its application for a Naif loan in March and said “dialogue” over the loan was continuing.

“Any commercial commitment to invest by Aurizon would requite long-term take or pay contracts for the full capacity and at appropriate rates of return with Aurizon board sign-off,” she said.

Pennings said he believed fighting the Aurizon loan was just as important as fighting Adani.

“It could make the Adani coalmine billions of dollars cheaper,” he said. “It allows for Gina’s mine [Hancock] or Clive’s [Palmer] mine, to get the infrastructure they need.

“We’ll keep turning up at functions, press conferences and their offices, until they [Labor] get the message.”

Front Line Action on Coal

Supporters of the Frontline Action on Coal group chained themselves to equipment at the central Queensland Abbot Point coal terminal on Thursday morning, shutting down the port for what they said was the second time this week.

An activist locks on to the coal loaders at Adani’s Abbot Point coal terminal on Thursday, preventing coal from being exported or loaded on to the ships docked at the port.
An activist locks on to the coal loaders at Adani’s Abbot Point coal terminal on Thursday. Photograph: Frontline Action on Coal


Amy Remeikis

The GuardianTramp

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