The Maroochydore Centrelink office - a familiar sight for a growing proportion of Sunshine Coast youth.

Is population growth leading to a youth unemployment crisis?

At 1% higher than the Queensland average the Sunshine Coast’s 8% unemployment rate already looks bad, but the 20% youth unemployment it’s masking is far more worrying.

Population growth is cited by the Australian Bureau of Statistics as a key factor as unemployment rates rise above levels already higher than during the global financial crisis.

Dr Bob Birrell, head of the Centre for Population and Urban Research at Monash University, commented that there is a strong causal link between population growth and unemployment.

Regarding entry level jobs requiring limited skills and experience – such as the hospitality industry – Dr Birrell said that Sunshine Coast residents “who are trying to get into those markets are encountering severe competition from large numbers of migrants.”

“It’s a very important factor and it’s showing up in high levels of youth unemployment,” he said, adding that most affected are those without tertiary education and prior work experience.

Dr Birrell commented that there is no cap on the working holiday visa program, the number of overseas students coming to Australia, or temporary entry 457 visas.

“From the point of view of businesses, they like the access to temporary migrants because they can drive a tougher bargain as far as the wages and conditions are concerned,” he said.

For this reason businesses are likely to continue to push for more flexibility in temporary migration, he said.

Dr Birrell said the federal government needs to revisit its policy on virtually unlimited entry to temporary migrants and require businesses to “make greater use of the locally available population.”

“It’s ridiculous to be running a record high immigration program at a time when the rate of job creation in Australia is half what it was three or four years ago,” he said.

The Sunshine Coast Council, however, plans to increase migration to the region as part of its Regional Economic Development Strategy.

Queensland president of Sustainable Population Australia Dr Jane O’Sullivan cited indirect consequences of population growth that can cause a positive feedback loop for the unemployment crisis.

“Population growth increases the cost of living because of all the money that’s converted into real estate,” Dr O’Sullivan said.

People who are spending a large portion of their income on their rent or mortgage are not spending as much in the local economy, so job availability shrinks because of slower spending.

This feedback loop appears to be in full swing: while the average jobseeker in February 2014 secured work within 24 weeks, their 2015 counterparts were looking at 89 weeks without work.

“That’s going from very temporary unemployment to long term unemployment in a short space of time,” said Dr O’Sullivan.

Some of the long-term unemployed are unlikely to ever find work if the conditions continue to worsen, and Dr O’Sullivan expressed particular concern for disadvantaged youth who are being locked out of the labour market.

“People who are mildly disabled or have dropped out of school for whatever reason – who would have normally got jobs before and been productive, independent people – we’re marginalizing them,” she said.

Youth unemployment has implications for young people’s identities, their ability to find their place in society, and the feeling that they are useful and going somewhere.

“You take that away from young people and all sorts of issues are going to escalate – whether it’s depression or drug addiction or violence or petty crime – and all of these things feed on each other because we’re locking them out of the job market,” said Dr O’Sullivan.

To add insult to injury, the federal government is winding back our welfare safety net because we can’t afford it at the same time that the need for it is growing, she said.

Dr O’Sullivan referred to the crisis as “a disaster in slow motion,” saying that “we are really ripping at the social fabric.”

Convenor of the Noosa and Hinterland Greens Steve Haines was also critical of federal government policies and omissions that have led to a worsening of the Sunshine Coast unemployment crisis.

Mr Haines said “it’s not considered a pressing enough concern to motivate policy makers and decision makers,” adding that “there’s a lack of leadership within the Sunshine Coast community in taking the issue of youth unemployment seriously.”

Instead, the conservative politicians currently in power “are very much focused on giving a free hand to the wealthy who fund their campaigns, so they’re acting on behalf of the wealthy rather than the people in their electorates,” he said.

The former LNP state government presided over the downsizing of the Mountain Creek TAFE and the closing of the Noosa TAFE, which had a focus on sustainable tourism and agriculture.

“Particularly in the Noosa and Hinterland region, premium agricultural products that are organically grown would be in huge demand, so there are opportunities lost because of decisions made by government,” Mr Haines said.

islam is plotting our destruction

Sharia law: coming to a suburb near you?

The Sunshine Coast has become an unlikely hub for anti-Muslim sentiment as Buderim-based community group Sunshine Coast Safe Communities lodged what has become known as the Sharia Law petition with State Member for Buderim Steve Dickson on April 2 2015.

The closing date for the petition is October 10 2015, after which date Mr Dickson will present it to the Queensland Parliament.

The petition had already attracted 4710 signatures at the time of writing.

In the words of Principal Petitioner Ron Hutchins, the petition seeks to “remove the special concessions and exemptions from any group who advocates violence, or seeks to promote or impose Sharia Law, or any other foreign law, under the classification of ‘religion’ or ‘place of worship’.”

Mr Hutchins said that Sunshine Coast Safe Communities had “no concerns with Muslims on the Sunshine Coast.”

But, he added, “those who promote or impose Sharia law also provide no benefit for our communities,” stating his view that Sharia law’s “broad spectrum of rules and laws run from inoffensive and trivial to cruel and violent.”

“If we as a nation accept parts of this law, as we already have, where do we draw the line?” he asked.

Mr Hutchins confirmed his awareness, however, that the Australian constitution “forbids a foreign legal system to override our legal system.”

State Member for Buderim Steve Dickson said he was “pleased that this petition has encouraged residents to undertake their own research and be educated on this significant global issue.”

“I have made it very clear that I have no issues with the Muslim community but the issue that I would like feedback on is specifically Sharia law and its potential impact on Australia,” Mr Dickson said, adding “I am yet to receive feedback from anyone who condones Sharia law.”

There is no consensus among Sunshine Coast MPs and opposition parties regarding the validity of the Sharia Law petition.

State MP for Kawana Jarrod Bleijie said that he supported everyone’s right to freely express and maintain their cultural and religious preferences “whilst always supporting community consultation and forums to address matters of concern to the community.”

Convenor of the Noosa and Hinterland Greens Steve Haines commented on census data showing that the Sunshine Coast population is home to less than 20 people professing Muslim faith.

Mr Haines described the Sharia law petition as “irrelevant really to what’s going on in the sunshine coast community.”

“There’s no push for Sharia law,” Mr Haines said, adding that the idea that Halal food certification is used to fund terrorism is “just a furphy” and “a distraction” from real issues.

Most people treat their faith as a private matter, with terrorism and Sharia law not on the agenda, according to Mr Haines’ understanding of the Sunshine Coast Muslim community.

“Anti-Muslim hysteria also provides a distraction from real issues such as an unemployment rate of 8% and conservative party economic decisions which deliberately continue to shift the wealth towards the very rich and reduce community essentials such as health care, child protection, affordable housing,” Mr Haines said.

The impact on the Sunshine Coast Muslim community could prove very negative, however. “If the government were to validate the concerns that are behind the petition,” the outcome would be very damaging for the Muslim community, said Mr Haines.

Sunshine Coast Safe Communities have claimed in a press release dated May 2 2015 that Queensland Opposition Leader Lawrence Springborg also backs the Sharia Law petition.

This claim was disputed by spokesperson and founding director of the Muslim organization of the Sunshine Coast (MoSC) Ben Nitschke, who forwarded a written guarantee from Mr Springborg that he would not back the petition.

Mr Springborg’s own responses so far have not clarified matters.

Mr Nitschke said that MoSC had not put together an official response to the Sharia law petition as the group was not taking it seriously.

“We just think it’s a bit of a joke,” said Mr Nitschke, who pointed out that in a democracy members of the public have the right to have their concerns heard by their local MP.

Mr Nitschke said that he would expect no lesser representation for members of the Muslim community should they raise concerns with their local MPs.

“We’re a bit disappointed that Steve Dickson hasn’t bothered to consult with the local Muslim community,” he said, but added that “we’re quite open and happy to talk to him about any of the concerns that might be raised in there, and that might save him a lot of time and embarrassment in the future.”

Mr Nitschke reported that some Australian Muslims feel victimized because of their race or religious views, and that this has been getting worse; however, the petition has not had a noticeable impact.

He cited the “one-sided portrayals of Muslims in the media” as a key source of anti-Muslim sentiment, saying he didn’t blame Australians who are fearful of Muslims, and felt that most Australians are reasonable people who would probably come to like Muslim people if they were to get to know any.

Mr Nitschke clarified that most Australian Muslims – whether born in this country or overseas – are not particularly political, preferring to just get on with their lives and practice their religion privately.

But, he added, “you’ll find that as they get pushed more and more they probably will start to become more involved in politics, and more involved in the media and so on, as they’ll see that this is the only way they’ll be able to survive in this country.”

Frontier Wars march, April 25 2015 | Image credit: Whistleblowers, Activists and Citizens Alliance (WACA), https://www.facebook.com/pages/Whistleblowers-Activists-and-Citizens-Alliance/166696300034817

Dishonouring Black Diggers: “My uniform makes me more human,” says taser-happy cop

Visitors from around the country were prevented from marching in Canberra on Anzac Day to honour the sacrifices of Black Diggers and all First Nations people since the Frontier Wars against British colonialists.

Police blocked Anzac Avenue, preventing 200 Aboriginals and their supporters from peacefully marching to lay a wreath to commemorate all those who lost their lives to war.

March organiser and Tent Embassy co-founder Michael Anderson said the police action was overt racism, “particularly as Fred Hooper, a decorated submariner was prevented from peacefully leading the group up to the War Memorial.”

Mr Anderson said he “was appalled when Senior Sergeant Adrian Crank said ‘this day is not for you’ to Aboriginal people,” caught on film by Eleanor Gilbert.

Sergeant Crank claimed that the RSL had not issued a permit to the Frontier Wars organisers.

It is not clear whether this decision was within the jurisdiction of the RSL, although in the previous four years the RSL and AFP had allowed Aboriginal people to conduct a peaceful commemoration.

Senior Sergeant Crank was later filmed attempting to arrest Aboriginal Elder Uncle Vince Duroux, reportedly for “breaching the peace.”

Activist Fee Plumley witnessed and filmed the incident.

“The police started to harass Uncle Vince, who was just doing his thing, talking to the crowd passionately as he does,” said Ms Plumley.

“The police pulled back and then shortly after they closed in, and one of them had his arm around Uncle Vince’s neck while another got out his taser and aimed it threateningly, not at Uncle Vince, but at a white solidarity protestor,” Ms Plumley said.

The officer filmed pulling out his taser was identified as Senior Sergeant Crank, who was later filmed again by Ms Plumley.

#myuniformmakesmemorehuman2

In the video Senior Sergeant Crank can be heard responding to calls to approach Indigenous activists as equal humans, outside of uniform, with “my uniform makes me more human.”

Uncle Vince explained that the Indigenous solidarity activists’ purpose was to remind the nation of the sacrifices of black Anzacs and the First Nations’ Frontier Wars.

He said the group’s exclusion was an insult, particularly because it was the RSL who had asked the police to step in.

The insult began with Elder Fred Hooper “who was rejected – in a suit, wearing a medal of his service, an ex-serviceman – denied to walk through to put a wreath down because he was with the indigenous mob who were standing up for frontier wars,” Uncle Vince said.

Frontier Wars march, April 25 2015 | Image credit: Whistleblowers, Activists and Citizens Alliance (WACA), https://www.facebook.com/pages/Whistleblowers-Activists-and-Citizens-Alliance/166696300034817

Frontier Wars march, April 25 2015 | Image credit: Whistleblowers, Activists and Citizens Alliance (WACA), https://www.facebook.com/pages/Whistleblowers-Activists-and-Citizens-Alliance/166696300034817

Uncle Vince said he had been telling the crowd about his brothers’ service when the police accused him of breaching the peace.

“My brother was killed in Vietnam – he survived Long Tan – he was a career soldier for the Australian army, a top soldier,” he said, adding that another of his brothers had also fought in Vietnam.

“My brothers served for this country with all their heart – they were proud to be Australian soldiers.”

Uncle Vince recalled post-war RSL racism: “After coming back from Vietnam my brother – in his home town of Brisbane couldn’t even have a beer in an RSL in uniform with his white mates.”

“They want us to put our memories in a museum. Well sorry, I’m not a museum piece – I’m a living artifact for my culture and my peoples. And that insult is old colonial thoughts of this country,” he said.

AndrewChan & MyuranSukumaran

Clive Palmer: tough penalties needed for exposing Australians to death penalty

Just hours after the executions of Bali Nine pair Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran in Indonesia Federal leader of the Palmer United Party and Member for Fairfax Clive Palmer announced a bill to prevent future executions of Australians overseas.

Clive Palmer tweet

“There needs to be an urgent review of policies that could expose Australians to the death penalty,” Mr Palmer said.

In 2005 the Australian Federal Police (AFP) passed on detailed information to Indonesian authorities about the Bali Nine heroin smuggling conspiracy.

The AFP disclosed sensitive information without seeking any guarantee that it would not put Australian citizens at risk of the death penalty.

“In the very saddening case of Myuran Sukumaran and Andrew Chan, if these two Australian citizens were arrested on their return to Australia, their lives would be saved,” Mr Palmer said.

Clive Palmer tweet 2

The Foreign Death Penalty Offences (Preventing Information Disclosure) Bill aims to outlaw disclosures by public officials that could lead to the death penalty being imposed on an Australian citizen.

“If the Australian Federal Police are aware of Australians involved in a capital punishment crime committed in a foreign country, then they should not be allowed to provide information which could expedite the death penalty,” Mr Palmer said.

Federal Leader of Palmer United Party and Member for Fairfax Clive Palmer has introduced a bill to outlaw disclosures in death penalty cases and impose jail terms on public officials in breach of the proposed Act.

Federal Leader of Palmer United Party and Member for Fairfax Clive Palmer has introduced a bill to outlaw disclosures in death penalty cases and impose jail terms on public officials in breach of the proposed Act.

Clause 7 of the Bill proposes 15 years imprisonment for disclosing information relating to an offence that carries the death penalty.

A mandatory minimum sentence of one year behind bars is also included “to ensure offenders receive sentences that reflect the seriousness of their offending.”

Only cases involving terrorist acts or acts of violence that cause death or endanger life are exempt from the Bill.

“The death penalty is barbaric and solves nothing,” said Mr Palmer, adding that disclosures that potentially place Australians in front of the firing squad are unacceptable to the Australian community.

Federal Member for Indi Cathy McGowan co-sponsored the Bill, prompted by the executions of Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran in Indonesia.

cathy mcgowan tweet

“I have deep sympathy for the families and friends of the two men and our thoughts are with them. This issue has caused distress in communities across Australia,” Ms McGowan said.

Ms McGowan called for discussion over the level of cooperation in death penalty cases.

“I believe the Parliament needs to discuss the scope and limitations of cooperation between Australia and countries that impose the death penalty. I am supporting this Bill because the Foreign Death Penalty Offences has significant repercussions for Australia and our citizens travelling overseas,” she said.

Amnesty International media coordinator Amelia Freelander commented that it was too early for the human rights organisation to comment on the Bill as they had not yet been able to assess it in detail.

“We will, however, be looking at this issue over the coming weeks and plan on releasing a statement about it,” Ms Freelander confirmed.

Since death sentences were handed down to Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran in February 2006 Amnesty International Australia’s position has been that the Australian government should review its approach to international police cooperation to meet Australia’s international human rights obligations.

Ms Freelander reaffirmed Amnesty International Australia’s 2006 position that AFP guidelines should be rewritten to ensure that Australian police only provide information where there is a guarantee that capital charges will not be pursued.

Changemaker Profile: Going Beyond Green

This article was first published in issue 8 of SHIFT magazine

Radical activism and mainstream politics may seem an unlikely flirtation at first blush, but a courtship is under way, and commitment is on the cards.

A new initiative has sprung up to bridge the chasm that separates activism and the necessary transition to a sustainable economy from the sphere of mainstream politics. Seeking to embolden Green policy and politics in Australia, Beyond Green is developing an online platform and physical networks aimed at strengthening and deepening the connections between activism, economic transition, and policy, and democratizing the discourse around our environmental crisis.

Beyond Green grew out of Generation Alpha’s Brisbane-based collective in Australia after members agreed on the need to extend beyond activism into policy and economic transition, in order to adequately address the complexity of our environmental predicament. Citing the economic policy orientation of measures suggested by writers such as Ozzie Zehner and Naomi Klein, Beyond Green is venturing beyond the traditional parameters of environmental activism.

Activism with an unashamedly political flavour

Launching with a bang in early 2015, Beyond Green is responsible for the boldest challenge yet to the planned exploitation of Queensland’s Galilee Basin by corporate coal mining giants. The Galilee Blockade is a warning to Big Coal that we, the people, demand to be heard and taken seriously when our land, water and livelihoods are threatened by land-clearing, pollution and fossil fuel emissions.

More light-hearted campaigns so far launched by the collective apply a fun, creative approach to tackling tough issues that are difficult to garner public interest in. Change The Day Triple J, for example, is a controversial low-ball challenge to the celebration of Australia Day on January 26th, a day that for many First Nations Peoples marks invasion and the beginning of an occupation to which they have never ceded sovereignty. A call to change Australia Day to an alternative day that can be fully inclusive and celebratory is a step toward truth and reconciliation. Such initiatives can most effectively be taken by media platforms such as Triple J radio, which has both institutional power and a moral responsibility to shift perceptions.

Data retention in Australia has also emerged as a controversial topic of late, and surveillance overreach looks set to spin out of control. In response, Beyond Green launched a successful campaign to both raise public awareness of the dangers of such overreach and send a clear message to the government that the breach of Australians’ privacy is unacceptable. So far the campaign has been a cheeky hit, according to Beyond Green spearhead Ben Pennings.

“Thousands of people around the country cc’ed Attorney-General George Brandis onto all their emails… This ironically led to a tightening in Federal Parliament’s and Apple’s IT protocols after activists managed to get the emails direct to Brandis’ phone – while he was being censured in the Senate!”

Australians are not known for being overtly political, but when it comes to threats to Australian values and the rights Australians hold dear, a creative and fun campaign can have the effect of transforming public discourse.

Radical steps to tackle the roots of our crisis

Candid about the narrow window of time we have to take actions that will avert far-reaching environmental catastrophe, Beyond Green are aiming for an injection of deep green realism into the veins of policy. We don’t have time to waste on telling electorates what they want to hear for the sake of scoring votes; we need informed leadership and the willingness to act fast, and to apply pressure from the grass roots.

When asked why Beyond Green is a necessary step, Pennings comments on the environment movement’s inadequate response to our environmental crisis. In spite of the many successes the movement has had, the crisis shows no signs of abating.

“50 years of a modern-day environment movement has seen many wonderful battles won, ecosystems and species saved, destructive developments stopped. But these 50 years have been the most destructive, with the movement not even getting close to stopping the raging torrent of violently extractive growth economics. Worse, much of the movement now is not even trying.”

It is not that the environment movement isn’t acting; a great deal is being done, but it is not getting to the crux of the problem. Without addressing the root cause of environmental destruction – the economic growth imperative – little can be done to halt destruction, and the mainstream environment movement simply does not recognize economic growth as the driver of ecological harm.

“Economic growth is seen as OK, even desirable, so long as it is powered by a slightly greener fuel source… The movement needs to explicitly recognize ecological and economic limits – that we can’t just tinker at the edges of an abusive system of living and just hope that things will somehow work out.”

It shouldn’t need pointing out that perpetual economic growth on a finite planet is a logical impossibility, or that there is only so much we can extract from the earth, only so much toxic waste we can generate, before we breach critical boundaries. In fact, there is an abundance of evidence suggesting humanity has already far exceeded the carrying capacity of the planet—we are now living as if we have a second Earth up our sleeve! To attempt to continue growing the economy despite this reality is tantamount to a kamikaze mission of global proportions.

But there is at present no politician or party in Australia campaigning on a platform of degrowth or a steady state economy. Brave policy is needed, and it will require a courageous and informed electorate to demand it. But Pennings is optimistic about the potential for change.

“Beyond Green recognizes that the insanity of economic growth must and can be stopped – voluntarily, justly, and through increasing the wellbeing of human communities.”

Justice is central to both how and why an economic transition needs to take place. Beyond Green makes clear that there can be no economic justice without transition to an economy that sustains life, moving away from our current model of transforming nature into commodities in a perversion of the concept of wealth creation.

Political shock therapy

It’s almost as though our political system needs a form of shock therapy, a shock to the system that issues a timely wake-up call. But is this realistic? Can change really be expected to come from the top-down political system? Even one that is shocked and awed?

Pennings flags a profound lack of faith in the current model of electoral politics as a means for achieving meaningful change, but he believes that a groundswell of pressure from communities can shock politicians into changing tack.

“Beyond Green has an interest in electoral politics, but not because that’s where systemic change will happen. Systemic change will come from grassroots movements, not Green politicians or Green NGOs funded by corporate foundations.”

Beyond Green recognizes that, although meaningful change emerges through the cracks in the existing system, there is clearly a need for more popular involvement in deciding on the direction of this change. Asked whether they are involved with any particular political party, Pennings responds that:

“We’re not linked with the Australian Greens but we definitely want to influence them – we want them to take on braver policies that recognise ecological and economic limits, that we need radical changes to the way we live. We also want Green politicians that recognise their main job is to explicitly support grassroots ecological and economic transition and social justice movements that represent our only chance for systemic change.”

Working with a political party that more closely represents the grassroots movement—which constitutes the majority of its voters—makes sense as a starting point. But joining the dots is no mean feat: a strategy is required to connect grassroots environmentalism and the degrowth movement to a political party in order to facilitate a confluence of these ideas, and establish a channel for developing policies that reflect the crises we collectively face.

“We are encouraging people involved in grassroots activism and economic transition to join the Greens so the party can be better integrated with movements for economic, ecological and social justice. We plan for this to lead to policy that better represents the economic and ecological realities we face, that recognizes we haven’t got the time for incremental multi-generational change.”

While connection with The Greens represents the path of least resistance, Beyond Green does not rule out engagement with other parties, as pressure from multiple directions is more effective than pushing The Greens further to the margins.

Democratising the development of policy

The nuts and bolts of Beyond Green’s policy platform are in the works as we speak, with a basic framework being established to guide the development of brave – and detailed – policies to introduce into Australian political culture. But first cab off the rank will be direct engagement with The Australian Greens, a bit of a stir-up that will keep the party on its toes and accountable to its supporter base, Pennings reports, somewhat cheekily.

“The internal policy processes of The Australian Greens will be the first port of call, something bound to cause ruckus within the party.”

The actual policies to be proposed by Beyond Green are being kept under the collective’s hat for now, as the process of policy development is at least as important as the eventual content. Once the framework is in place, these policy proposals will be developed by volunteer working groups in accordance with the principles of deliberative democracy. The process will be transparent, with an online platform for public comment, suggestion, and critique—all essential elements of a functional democracy. Background material will be provided to users of the site to contextualise the group’s work and objectives, as an informed electorate is best positioned to deliberate effectively over the direction of policy.

For those concerned that the deliberative process runs the risk of descending into a talk-fest that breeds non-participation, Pennings lays these fears to rest with the assurance that hard work and higher levels of engagement in action will be rewarded with a larger stake in decision-making. This will not be a free-for-all which can be hijacked by those who make demands and then expect others to roll out the policies that will meet them.

“There will definitely be a form of do-ocracy where the folk more involved get more say than those less involved.”

The deliberative process of policy development enables envelope-pushing beyond the boundaries of what is politically appealing to the mainstream, Pennings points out.

“There is license to explore and promote policy that some would currently see as politically too unpopular.”

That license comes not a moment too soon, and to be sure, sincere activists and transitioners have earned it. Connecting activism, transition and policy provides a potential pathway toward a sustainable future that bypasses the time and energy wastage of disconnected work in isolation by groups competing for the public’s time, attention and trust.

Beyond Green is beating a track from which many inroads can be made, and we would be wise to join them on their journey.

 

The fence separates Bimblebox Nature Refuge on the left from  a property on the right that has been cleared for grazing cattle. Bimblebox may also be cleared to make way for Waratah Coal's Galilee Coal Project. Source: Kari McGregor.

The elephant in the courtroom: mining magnate money in political party pockets

Indian mining company Adani stands in the dock this week over a legal challenge to its proposed Carmichael mine in Queensland’s Galilee Basin.

Adani is up against the Coast and Country Alliance of Queensland (CCAQ), a community organization represented in Land Court by the Environmental Defenders Office (EDO).

The EDO is seeking “a clear recommendation the Adani mine should not proceed due to climate, ecological and economic impacts.”

If the $16.5 billion dollar mega-mine were to go ahead it would cause extensive environmental damage and significantly increase Australia’s contribution to climate change, according to experts testifying in the case.

CCAQ spokesperson Derec Davies said the risks were unacceptable. “Our case is that this mine should not be allowed to go ahead,” said Davies.

The fence separates Bimblebox Nature Refuge on the left from  a property on the right that has been cleared for grazing cattle. Bimblebox may also be cleared to make way for Waratah Coal's Galilee Coal Project. Source: Kari McGregor.

Galilee Basin properties under threat from coal mining: The fence separates Bimblebox Nature Refuge on the left from a property on the right that has been cleared for grazing cattle. Bimblebox may also be cleared to make way for Waratah Coal’s Galilee Coal Project. Source: Kari McGregor.

Ben Pennings, convener of community group Beyond Green, said successful development of the Galilee would make it “the largest coal complex on the globe with the annual emissions from burning it higher than the national emissions of all but 6 countries.”

Adani’s Carmichael mine alone would rank as the world’s 36th largest emitter, just below the oil economy of the United Arab Emirates.

It is not clear whether the matter of Adani’s political donations will be raised during the five weeks of proceedings.

In financial year 2013-2014 Adani donated $49,500 to the LNP and $11,000 to the ALP respectively, according to disclosures from the Australian Electoral Commission (AEC).

Galilee Basin Carbon Account

AEC disclosures show Adani are not the only mining company donors with stakes in the Galilee coal basin. Gina Rinehart’s Hancock Coal donated $55,000 to the ALP and $44,880 to the National party in the 2012–2013 financial year, and Hancock Prospecting donated $55,000 to the National Party. Clive Palmer also donated $43,300 to the Queensland branch of the LNP in the same year.

It is hard to track all the mining donations to the federal and state governments, said Pennings.

“We tried to track all the donations”, but “gave up when it passed $3 million, also realising much more is hidden through loopholes in electoral law.”

“Legally these companies cannot donate unless they believe they are getting something for their donations,” said Pennings, adding that both major parties offer returns with “pro-mining policies and subsidies, at the expense of longer-term industries like tourism, agriculture and greener electricity production.”

“Government approvals for mining in the Galilee are a scandal. There is broad evidence of major ecological harm, and harm to other industries that aren’t as destructive to communities and ecosystems.”

Prior to the Queensland state election, the LNP state government had slated $450 million of taxpayer money to subsidise the construction of a railway to transport coal from mine to port, as well as royalty discounts.

After winning the January state election the ALP have taken the subsidy and royalty discounts offer off the table.

Adani plan to continue without it, raising the question of whether it was ever needed and whether government subsidies are helping create jobs.

When contacted for a response, Adani Director of Communications Andrew Porter declined to comment, stating: “Adani does not propose to comment on a matter before the Court.”

Further information on the Galilee Basin mining projects and their impact can be found here.

Thinking it all over…