Via the Saturday Paper’s Mike Seccombe:
Clive Palmer is not delusional. Those too-good-to-be-true promises, the 151 hapless, hopeless candidates running in every lower house seat, the risible “shadow minister” titles, have been set up to create the illusion of a serious party with a broad suite of policies and deep interest in the disparate concerns of government.
The evidence suggests they are but a vehicle to harvest the votes of the politically ignorant and marginalised, a cohort described by one political professional as the “up yours” vote. And Palmer’s narrow goal is to ensure a right-wing government that will protect the fossil fuel industry, particularly the interests of coalminers in Queensland’s Galilee Basin, which includes himself.
Palmer’s association with coal and conservative politics goes back decades. He learnt his right-wing populist techniques at the side of the infamous National Party premier of Queensland, Joh Bjelke-Petersen. Later, having made his fortune in real estate and mining, Palmer became one of the biggest donors to the conservative cause in his home state. But the long, cosy relationship busted up spectacularly in 2012, in a dispute with the Liberal National Party government of Campbell Newman over access to the vast coal reserves of the Galilee.
The Galilee Basin is much more than just the proposed Adani mine. It covers some 250,000 square kilometres and has one of the largest unexploited coal deposits on the planet. Nine separate mega-mines have been mooted. The Climate Council has calculated that if all the coal in the Galilee Basin were burned, it would produce 705 million tonnes of carbon dioxide every year – roughly 1.3 times Australia’s total current yearly emissions. Exploitation of the Galilee’s resources would amount to a global climate catastrophe.
The biggest logistical problem for would-be miners in the Galilee is getting the coal to port. The cause of Palmer’s bitter falling-out with the LNP government was a decision to reject his plan for a rail line to carry his coal – and to charge other companies to carry theirs – in preference for two other proposals promoted by rivals: Indian mining giants GVK and Adani.
…the upshot is that if the Morrison government wants to have any hope of stymieing Labor’s policy agenda, much less winning the election, it needs the support of these two fringe parties. Or as Labor’s Penny Wong put it last week, the relationship between Morrison and Palmer amounts to a “marriage of convenience between an ad man and a con man”.
Mind you, Labor will preference Palmer candidates above Liberals in some 80 seats, which takes a lot of sting out of the gibe.
The motivations of the ad man are absolutely clear, but what about the motivations of the other party to that marriage of convenience? Why would a man whose previous parliamentary history demonstrated a studied lack of interest in the affairs of government spend $50 million, $60 million, $70 million – plus another $7 million promised as part payment of Queensland Nickel workers – to buy his way back in? As Bill Shorten suggests, Palmer’s not doing it out of altruism towards the Libs; he expects something in return.
That thing, says Christian Slattery, campaigner for the Australian Conservation Foundation, lies in the Galilee Basin. “He proposes two huge coalmines, one of which would be adjacent to Adani’s Carmichael mine. He has made application to the federal government for approval for that mine.”
According to documents submitted to the federal Department of the Environment and Energy by Palmer’s Waratah Coal, his Alpha North project would involve a series of open-cut and underground mines covering an area of 144,000 hectares, and would produce about 33 per cent more coal than the Adani mine.
The fortunes of Adani and Palmer are linked: Adani’s rail line would facilitate Palmer’s mine, and potentially others, getting coal to port.
The Morrison government is firmly behind the Adani project. Labor has been more cautious in setting out its position. Shorten, who once expressed opposition to Adani, is now evasive, saying his government would be guided by the science, and would not take any action that might involve sovereign risk.
What does Make Australia Stupid Again want? Coal.
He is also a former gold trader and economic commentator at The Sydney Morning Herald, The Age, the ABC and Business Spectator. He is the co-author of The Great Crash of 2008 with Ross Garnaut and was the editor of the second Garnaut Climate Change Review.
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