Adani mine stymies battle for Queensland's marginal seats


Both major parties are battling against opposition to the Adani mining project in Queensland's marginal seats.

Coal has become a divisive and decisive issue in the federal election campaign, again being highlighted as Bob Brown’s anti-Adani convoy makes its way north through Queensland.

Support for the mine has put key marginal must-win seats in the central and north Queensland coal belt at stake for both parties while they also try on satisfy anti-Adani sentiment south of the border.

More than 800 cars have signed up to be a part of the Adani convoy
More than 800 cars have signed up to be a part of the Adani convoy

Campaigning about climate change ahead of coal mining jobs is a tough sell in the Queensland city of Townsville.

Jobs are top of mind for many voters in the Labor-held seat of Herbert in Townsville.

“It’s more important we have jobs for our children," one voter said. Another echoed the sentiment: "It’s a good opportunity for jobs for the people, but I don’t know about climate change.”

Wendy Tubman from the Stop Adani Townsville speaks to voters.
Wendy Tubman from the Stop Adani Townsville speaks to voters.

The Indian-owned coal mine and rail project in the Galilee Basin has become synonymous with climate change.

Wendy Tubman from the Stop Adani Townsville group said she believes voters will discover that Adani project's promise of jobs won't save the city.

"It’s like a cargo cult now. Adani has been saying it since 2011, people will wake up to it. I would like to think people will balance benefit for Adani against the huge cost."

Adani supporters sold on the promise of jobs

Adani opened its headquarters almost two years ago in Townsville, promising thousands of jobs.

With unemployment in the region at about eight per cent, that is the message locals wanted to hear but those figures have since been revised down along with the size of the mine.

From Townsville down to Mackay and Rockhampton, where three marginal Coalition seats also in play, Mackay Regional Council mayor Greg Williamson says it is all about coal.

Federal government signs off on Adani mine groundwater plan
Federal government signs off on Adani mine groundwater plan

"So anyone who attacks that is attacking the basic underpinning of our workforces in this area, what does it mean?

"About 18,000 jobs in our region. We’ve got the best steaming coal in the Galilee basin, probably in the world, makes sense to be able to deliver that, earn money for Queensland, for Australia."

Anti-Adani sentiment stronger in marginal southern urban electorates

The Coalition backs the Adani mine, Labor’s support is qualified but both are also juggling strong anti-Adani sentiment in marginal southern urban electorates.

District president of the CFMEU mining union Steve Smyth is worried about what he calls real jobs.

"We’ve seen what happens under the LNP, what happens in the coal industry, massive casualisation, the highest ever, where they’ll support the mining bosses, not the mining workers."

Adani protesters in Queensland.
Adani protesters in Queensland.

Labor is under pressure from within with Steve Smyth calling on local candidates to pledge their support for Adani.

"I think Labor needs to be clear on that, from what I’ve heard the Labor party has said if it meets the regulatory requirements, it stacks up, it goes ahead and that’s where it’s at."

Businesses hard hit by mining bust

The fallout from the end of the mining boom in recent years has hit retail traders hard on high streets in Queensland’s coal belt.

Lucy Downes is the owner of the Gecko boutique in the Townsville CBD’s main shopping street. She says she is interested in a long-term solution to boosting the economy.

"More jobs translate into an economy and a bounce back, I can see that definitely, but I do have my own questions," she said.

"If Adani is the catalyst for this, I’m sure there will be quite a lot of work for the construction of the mine but it’s the ongoing jobs I’d like to see."

Lucy Downes has advocated for diversifying the region’s economic base, especially with the Great Barrier Reef just off-shore.

One of the world’s great natural wonder has been suffering the effects of climate-change attributed coral bleaching.

"I’m not sure Adani stacks up with that, I’m a big supporter of maintaining a strong and robust tourist industry instead," Ms Downes said.

Indigenous voters have their say

Aboriginal unemployment in the region is especially high.

Adani has promised jobs for the native title holders along its proposed rail line, like Uncle Col McLennan who heads Indigenous training and employment company Jangga Operations.

"The Adani for Jangga is to create jobs for us, I think it’s gotta affect us if it doesn’t happen but we really want it to happen and we’ve positive for 8 years, haven’t given up, want something for young people."

For Uncle Col, political backing for the mine counts.

"Always been a Labor man, I’m not afraid to say that, but the way things look now that could change. The way I feel, Labor might not get my vote."

The Adani rail line also runs through Birriah country where Ken Dodd is a traditional owner and lawman.

"Our main concerns are the artesian basin, and the water and the land and it doesn’t need to be opened, we have enough mines in our country."

Traditional owner Ken Dodd.
Traditional owner Ken Dodd.

Adani is the vanguard for opening up the Galilee Basin to a number of other major coal mines.

Past experience makes Ken Dodd doubt the jobs mantra.

"None of these outcomes or targets are being met by the proponents so by using the old business and opportunities and jobs and everything, it’s the same old social licensing talk we hear all the time."

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