Labor splinters on Adani’s $2b Carmichael mine as candidates back jobs

“My position has always been if it stacks up, environmentally or financially, it should go ahead. To be honest I’m fed up with the debate that’s been going on about it. If it stacks up and ticks the boxes then I support it going ahead like any other project.

“Particularly those who are desperate for a job, they are keen for more movement in that space and new projects opening in that region.”

Labor candidate for Capricornia Russell Robertson, a 17-year veteran of the Goonyella mine in the Bowen Basin, has also backed the Adani mine, which has been scaled back from 60 million tonnes a year to 10 million tonnes of thermal coal each year.

Labor agriculture spokesman Joel Fitzgibbon, whose seat is in the coal heartland of the Hunter Valley, also bucked the Labor narrative on Tuesday, saying there was a bright future for the coal industry.

“I am and have always been and remain a very strong supporter of Australia’s coal mining industry,” he said. “Demand for their products will be strong internationally for many decades to come and I look forward to it continuing to be a very strong employer in the Hunter Valley and else.”

Premier snub

But Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszcuk has thumbed her nose at critics dismayed about the delayed approvals for Adani’s mine and rail project, saying climate change should become a major issue of the federal election in May, but not new coal workers’ jobs in the Galilee Basin.

While she stopped short of saying the Labor government would ban new thermal coal mines in the state – as being called for by the Greens – Ms Palaszczuk has signalled her Left-controlled government will not back down from its plans to reach 50 per cent renewables by 2030, which could potentially threaten thousands of coal workers’ jobs.

Ms Palaszczuk refused to utter the word Adani during an address to the Queensland Media Club on Tuesday, despite being asked half a dozen questions about why the state government has added extra hurdles for the Indian company for it to gain approval.

The split in Labour ranks was revealed on Tuesday when the CFMEU mining and energy Queensland president Stephen Smyth called on the Palaszczuk government to stop playing games over the Adani mine and give it the green light, saying thousands of jobs in the Galilee Basin could be at risk.

The union has also vowed to campaign against Labor candidates who do not come out and support the mine in the lead-up to the May election.

Ms Palaszczuk said her government has supported $9 billion in resources projects in the past four years, creating 5500 jobs. She said there had not been extra hurdles put in the way of Adani whose project was given a last-minute independent review over the protection of the black-throated finch. It is also waiting for groundwater approval from the Commonwealth.

“I reject the claims my government does not approve resource projects in this state because we do,” she said. “That company [Adani] is not being treated differently to any other company.”

Opposition Leader Bill Shorten with Labor candidate for Flynn Zac Beers before the 2016 federal election. Alex Ellinghausen

Ms Palaszczuk said the summer of natural disasters in Queensland, which included bushfires, cyclones and a monsoon in North Queensland, showed climate change was real and needed to be addressed.

Liberal National Party MP George Christensen, who is attempting to hold his Mackay-based seat of Dawson, congratulated the CFMEU for calling out Labor on its “anti-coal, anti-mining agenda” saying the ALP was split over the issue of coal jobs.

“Year after year their support for Labor has been taken for granted and allowed Labor at both the state and federal levels to be led by the nose by green, anti-job activists against supporting the coal sector and coal mining,” Mr Christensen told Parliament.

“I extend the hand of friendship to the CFMEU. If you want to take on Labor on its anti-mining approach, I’m all ears.”

It comes as Adani said it had received the final report of the review into its black-throated finch management plan, saying it had ignored the company’s feedback on the draft report last week.

“To say we’re disappointed in the final version is an understatement,” an Adani spokeswoman said. “We reject the report and its findings in its entirety.”

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