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Turnbull slammed for “sucking up” to Adani, as business pushes 50-year life for coal plants

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Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has come under renewed criticism from Australian environmental groups after meeting with senior executives from Indian coal mining giant Adani Group as part of his three-day state visit to India.

The meeting with Adani chair Gautam Adani and other company executives in New Delhi on Monday coincides with deliberations on company’s final investment decision on the $21-billion Carmichael coal mine in Queensland’s Galilee basin, which is set to be Australia’s largest coal mine, if built.

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The project has been hugely controversial for a range of environmental and economic reasons, but mostly for the significant threat it poses to the nearby Great Barrier Reef, which is already seriously compromised as a consequence of global warming.

But concern for one of the world’s natural wonders, and one of Australia’s greatest tourism assets, has not stopped the federal government from actively lobbying for the Carmichael coal mine – something that federal energy and environment minister Josh Frydneberg was caught out doing at the 2016 UN Climate Talks in Marrakech.

And activists say that Turnbull’s meeting with Adani chair Gautam Adani looks like more of the same – particularly in light of the Indian company’s bid for a $900-million federal government loan for the railway that would link the mine to port.

“The Great Barrier Reef is dying. And Turnbull is in India sucking up to the very man who is going to make it worse. Worse, he’s going to give him a billion dollars to do it,” said GetUp environmental justice campaigns director Sam Regester, on Tuesday.adani_1384876f

“His idea of protecting the Reef is giving a coal billionaire a billion dollars to build a coal mine right on the Reef’s doorstep.

“It’s time Turnbull stops pretending he represents the interest of Australians, not the interests of huge mining corporations. As the rest of Australia works to save the Reef, Turnbull has turned his back.”

According to reports, Turnbull said that he supported exporting Australian coal and other resources to India to assist with the sub-continent’s ”enormous need” for more electricity.

“India has a massive program of expanding electrification across the country and Australian coal has a very big role to play in that,” he said.

But he denied discussing Adani’s bid for the Northern Australia Infrastructure Fund loan, which he described as a matter that needed independent approval and was outside of his control.

“That’s an independent process, it has to go through that process — that independent assessment by the board,” Turnbull said.

Meanwhile, the Carmichael mine has also faced numerous court challenges – the latest being over Native Title, after a recent federal court ruling threw into question more than 100 proposed land use agreements, including one covering Adani’s project.

The Turnbull government is trying to pass legislation which would reverse that court ruling and make it easier for the deals to be registered – a move that is reportedly supported by federal Labor.

According to reports from ABC News, Turnbull is believed to have told Adani that the Native Title issue “needed to and would be fixed.”

The Greens, meanwhile, have announced plans to introduce a bill for a “suitable person test” to the NAIF funding process, intended to block the Adani project because of the company’s alleged track record of environmental law breaches.


Back in Australia, the Turnbull government is also coming under fire, not only for its anachronistic and uneconomic support of new coal power generation, but for its “pandering” to incumbent fossil fuel generators through a proposed 50-year coal power closure plan.

350.org Australia said on Tuesday that the Coalition had “caved in to the Big Polluters in proposing a plan that would throw the climate and local communities under a bus.

“This is just another example of the Turnbull Government prioritising their mates in big business above the desires of Australians,” said 350.org energy spokesperson, Josh Creaser.

“Running coal plants to 50 years means keeping Australia shackled to dirty and outdated coal technology for decades to come

“Instead …the conversation between the government and our energy retailers should instead be planning how to close down our coal plants and transition to renewables by 2030 in line with the climate science,” Creaser said.

But – just like in the US, where President Donald Trump is talking up “really clean coal” and talking down renewables – industry experts in Australia argue that policy will ultimately have little impact on the shape of future energy markets, as both new and old coal power rapidly becomes environmentally and economically unviable.

As we reported here, Audrey Zibelman, the progressive new CEO of the Australian Energy Market Operator, says the future will be “decentralised”, based around local generation, and it will be quicker, smarter, cleaner, cheaper, and more reliable than the current set-up.

Hazelwood’s owners, Engie, also see a future where half of all demand is met by electricity sourced from homes and businesses, mostly with solar and storage. And they see the future of large-scale generation will also be in solar, which is why they tendered for proposals earlier this year.

Likewise, in the US, the New York Times reports that executives at the nation’s largest electric utilities say Trump’s support of coal makes little difference to them: they still plan to retire coal plants and have no plans to build new ones.

“For us, it really doesn’t change anything,” said Jeff Burleson, vice president of system planning at Southern Company, an Atlanta-based utility that provides electricity to 44 million people across the Southeast, of the prospective rollback of the Clean Power Plan. “Whatever happens in the near term in the current administration doesn’t affect our long-term planning for future generation,” he said.

“We’ll continue to grow the renewables portion of our business and meanwhile rely on natural gas, but we don’t see investing in new coal,” Burleson said.  

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  • Megs

    May my grandchildren curse them

  • Robert Comerford

    I wish he would stay in India.
    India’s problem is gross overpopulation not lack of energy..

    • Alastair Leith

      The two aren’t unrelated. 🙂

  • Rob G

    Again and again we see Turnbull willing to completely compromise previously held positions, in order to keep his job. It’s no wonder that he is in free fall in the polls. Every genuine leader needs a set of principles, a level of what is right and what is wrong and what is really in the interests of Australia. Serving your own interests or vested interests will never be acceptable to the wider public. 2019 it ends for this government.

    • D. John Hunwick

      I agree completely. The man is unprincipled. He is a sham as a democratically elected leader because he refuses to listen to the majority of people he has to govern.

    • Chris Fraser

      He’s a weathervane.

  • trackdaze

    Interesting Turnbull should ride on the dehli metro which is gearing up to be powered by renewables mid 2018.

    • Alastair Leith

      oh the Lols

  • Ray Miller

    How United Airlines in US treated one of its customers dragging him off the plane, I see a parallel with the Turnbull government and United, both having loosed a custom focus. It is not going to end well for either of them.

    • Alastair Leith

      Turnbull is running plays straight from the Cullun Burnitt playbook of indecisiveness and arrogance, what could possibly go wrong?

  • MaxG

    Well, you guys have to realise that neoliberalism has neither a regard for people, nor the environment… it is just what they do and what they stand for. So, there is no point complaining that they are doing their job… and they do it well. — And since I was told people are not stupid voting for them, I have to conclude they love ’em and support what they are doing.