Work starting at Adani site on Friday.
Work starting at Adani site on Friday.

Put emotion to one side when looking at Adani's coal mine

THE misinformation surrounding Adani's Carmichael coal mine in central Queensland's Galilee Basin has been extraordinary.

Adani is now an ideological touchstone for various and disparate interest groups, with the project (and its proponents) held up as a planet killer in some quarters, while in others it is hailed as an economic panacea in a region crying out for investment and solid jobs.

In reality it is neither.

As currently planned, the Adani mine would be far from the largest coal mine in central Queensland, and is in fact smaller than two mines announced during the recent election campaign - Winchester South and Olive Downs.

The CFMEU's stance on the project has been clear and consistent: as a private sector project - and one being developed by a large, foreign headquartered multinational - it must stack up on legal, environmental and financial grounds.

That means Adani should not receive public subsidies for what will become private profit. It also means the company has to meet the same stringent environmental conditions that other mines must, with particular regard in Adani's case to management of endangered fauna, and ensuring there is no degradation of our water table.

If it passes muster on these counts, emotion and sometimes overblown hyperbole must be put aside, and Adani should not be singled out for any special treatment.

While much focus has, rightly, been on the potential environmental impact of the Carmichael mine, not enough attention has been given to the claimed economic benefits of the project.

Here the alleged job figures Adani uses are more rubbery than a set of Dunlops, with reports now suggesting the number of long-term positions will be fewer than 1000, or perhaps even closer to 100 according to an interview with Nationals deputy leader Bridget McKenzie. That is hardly an economic boon for Central Queensland.

Questions still remain as to the level of automation Adani might use down the track, and how much skilled labour will be imported from overseas to fill alleged skills gaps during both the construction and production phases.

Nor do we have any guarantees from the company that it will not employ people on cut price labour hire arrangements which offer few of the benefits of full-time work and none of the security.

If Adani stacks up legally, financially and environmentally then so be it.

As far as the CFMEU's construction and general division is concerned it is not a case of being "for” or "against” the mine, but rather supporting due process.

What our union is wary of, however, is a company that makes claims that don't stand up well to close scrutiny, and politicians like Senator Matt Canavan who view the project solely as a chance for cheap political leverage and who have zero regard for the working conditions of the men and women who might one day be employed on the project.

We are also yet to be convinced Adani will deliver on what are fairly nebulous commitments about training and apprenticeships, preference for local workers, and the company's procurement policy when it comes to local goods and services.

Quite simply, a large hole in the ground in the middle of nowhere, with a FIFO workforce on labour hire contracts, and engineering componentry shipped in from Delhi, is not going to be an economic saviour for the people of centres such as Mackay and Rockhampton.

- Michael Ravbar, CFMEU state secretary (Construction and general division) in Qld and NT

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