Opposition Leader Bill Shorten has taken a further step toward opposing the proposed Queensland Adani coal mine as he starts campaigning for the Batman byelection, where Labor is fighting off a strong challenge from the Greens.
Shorten was appearing with Labor’s candidate Ged Kearney, who on Friday resigned as ACTU president to contest the byelection.
Shorten seized on a Guardian Australia report that said Adani put in “an altered laboratory report” when appealing a fine for contamination of wetlands near the Great Barrier Reef.
Shorten said he had become increasingly sceptical of Adani in recent months.
If Adani was “relying on false information, that mine does not deserve to go ahead”.
He called on the government to investigate the claim, and said that if it didn’t, Labor in government would do so.
Kearney said she did not see the mine going ahead. “I know Adani are not good employers,” she said.
Adani will be a big issue in the byelection, with the Greens running hard on it and a grassroots campaign underway. Directly behind Shorten at his news conference demonstrators held up “Stop Adani” signs. A big protest is planned in Canberra when parliament resumes next week.
Earlier this week, Shorten hardened his position on the mine, telling the National Press Club: “We’re certainly looking at the Adani matter very closely. If it doesn’t stack up commercially or if it doesn’t stack up environmentally it will absolutely not receive our support.”
Last year, Shorten was looking on the positive side of the project. In May he said: “There’s no point having a giant coal mine if you wreck the reef but, on the other hand, if the deal does stack up, if the science safeguards are there, if the experts are satisfied, then all well and good and there’ll be jobs created.”
But he did not support the government giving a loan subsidy for the railway that would support the mine.
Greens leader Richard Di Natale tweeted on Friday:
Meanwhile, the Greens moved to up the ante for Labor on the issue of power, releasing a policy calling for the return of the national electricity grid into public ownership, beginning with the acquisition of the interconnectors between regions.
It said the cost of acquiring the five privately owned interconnectors would be A$2.8 billion. “A return to complete public ownership can ensure investment decisions are made in the public interest, not in the interests of profit,” the policy says.
Kearney said renationalisation was worthy of consideration but Shorten was dismissive, saying it was not going to happen.
Authors: Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra