Interview with Tom Connell – AM Agenda – Wednesday, 21 February 2018


SUBJECT/S: Adani, Queensland Jobs

TOM CONNELL: Labor’s position on Adani. What are they going to do on this? Bill Shorten indicating that they could walk away from supporting this. It’s all to do with a laboratory test and whether or not that was something Adani faked, in some way. The company has denied that. I started off by asking Jason Clare, the Shadow Minister in this area if this is this a popular project in Queensland.

Jason Clare thanks for your time. You’ve just been in Central Queensland, is the proposed Adani Carmichael coal mine popular there?

JASON CLARE: Among some people it is, amongst others it’s not. The feedback I got on the ground in Townsville earlier this week is that a lot of the business community are becoming increasingly concerned that the project just won’t go ahead. There’s been big promises over many years that the coal mine will get off the ground, that it’ll create thousands and thousands of jobs. The feedback I got is that the people of north Queensland now think it probably won’t happen.

CONNELL: Bill Shorten appears to have put a line in the sand over one claim, that’s been put forward about a falsified laboratory test that this claim against Adani to do with its Abbot Point coal terminal. But is it a position of Labor that if this is proved – if this has happened – you’ll officially withdraw your support.

CLARE: What we’ve said is it needs to be properly investigated, and Malcolm Turnbull can’t wash his hands of that. It’s important that the Federal Government conducts a proper investigation of that to see if there has been tampering with that evidence.

What we’ve said is that this is a project that needs to stand on its own two feet. Taxpayers shouldn’t have to subsidise the construction of a rail line from the mine to the port and I think that most Australians would agree with that. If the mine is going to go ahead then Australian taxpayers shouldn’t have to help build it.

CONNELL: But just on this lab test, because Bill Shorten came out on day one of the Batman by-election campaign and spoke about this accusation. He said that Adani wouldn’t have a social license if this were proven. So is this a threshold moment? Would you be able to still support this project if this claim is proven?

CLARE: That story broke that day when Bill Shorten did that press conference, and he expressed the view that I’m sure most Australians would, which is that this is serious. You don’t want companies tampering with evidence, there should be a proper investigation of it. The company still needs to conduct water management tests and develop a water management plan – that also has to be ticked off by the Government. We don’t want a situation where the mine could lead to the poisoning of the Great Artesian Basin, and affect farmers or farming land. The Federal Government has got to get its act in order, conduct proper investigations make sure that the water management plan is properly assessed before it’s approved.

Ultimately the ball is in Adani’s court here. They’ve made big promises of thousands and thousands of jobs – up to 10,000 jobs – that haven’t materialised. They said this would be off the ground a long time ago. You’ve got 30,000 people in Central and North Queensland that are unemployed – that are desperately looking for a job – waiting on what increasingly looks like a project that won’t go ahead. We can’t just sit on our hands and wait, and that’s why Bill Shorten is up in North Queensland now. He was in Townsville on Monday, Mackay yesterday and in Central Queensland – in Rocky – today announcing infrastructure projects that are going to create real jobs for people who desperately need them.

CONNELL: But just on that point again, because Bill Shorten is pretty clear about that and talking the social license for Adani – and I understand the investigation is ongoing, that’s fine I’m not asking you to say whether or not it will come up with that result – if it is that this has been falsified and did cause environmental damage, is that a threshold moment for Labor?

CLARE: Let me go back to the start of your question Tom, because it’s not being investigated by the Federal Government. I think the Queensland Government’s looking at it – the Federal Government has got a responsibility to look at this too, and they’re wiping their hands of it. They’re saying that they have got no responsibility here. I think that’s ridiculous. The Federal Government has a responsibility to make sure that this is properly investigated.

As far as the project itself goes, the ball’s in Adani’s court. They still haven’t raised the money necessary for the project to go ahead. They still haven’t developed the water management plans to make sure that there’s no negative effect on farmers or farming jobs in North Queensland. But we can’t just sit back and wait. There’s thousands of people desperate for a job in North Queensland.

The Federal Government have pinned all their hopes on this project. 1,000 days ago they announced the Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility that was going to build all the infrastructure we need in North Queensland. 1,000 days later they still haven’t funded one project in North Queensland. No wonder people are angry. Angry that Turnbull and Joyce seem to be fighting with each other like silly little private school boys – fighting over one job when they should be focused on jobs in North Queensland.

CONNELL: Obviously the Federal Government’s saying this investigation is up to the State. Can I just ask you one more time – perhaps the answer is you’ll wait and see – on that lab test? If this is found to have been falsified does that officially cement Labor’s opposition to this at a Federal level?

CLARE: You’re right Tom that we will need to see what the results of that lab test are. But I’m not focused on one lab test, one result. It’s important that the State and the Federal Government examine that. It’s important that the water management plans are done properly and we understand what the impacts of the water management – the extraction of water from the basin – would be on farming and farm land. It’s important that Adani tell the people of Australia when this project is going to go ahead, if at all. Ultimately the ball’s in their court. We don’t think tax payers should be throwing up to a billion dollars of their money into a project like this to get it off the ground.

CONNELL: And just on your position. Because Bill Shorten has obviously indicated that you might oppose this. How does that work? Generally speaking the States make a decision, the Federal Government makes sure all their environmental procedures have gone through. So if you wanted to pull this project how would you go about doing that if the State wanted it to go ahead?

CLARE: Tom we’re not in the business of ripping up contracts. There’s some plans that need to be developed around water which Malcolm Turnbull will need to tick off in the next few months. But let me repeat this point. Ultimately the ball’s in Adani’s court. They’re the ones who are going to have to raise the money to make this happen. It’s looking increasingly unlikely that that will happen. Australian banks haven’t funded it. They haven’t reached financial close yet and just to repeat the point I made earlier on, the people of Townsville, the business people in Townsville impressed upon me that they think that this is unlikely to happen.

Now you can’t just sit around and wait for one project to get off the ground. There’s a lot of people up in North Queensland who need a job and that’s why we announced the widening of the Port in Townsville so bigger container ships could get in and out of Townsville. That will create more jobs in construction but it will also mean more products can be shipped out of Townsville to the world. That creates more jobs. Yesterday Bill announced the second stage of the Mackay ring road. He’ll have more to say about job creating projects in Rocky today.

This is what Malcolm Turnbull and Barnaby Joyce should be doing. Instead they’re at each other’s throats – fighting over who should be running the country or whether Barnaby should resign.


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