Ongoing coverage of the Queensland election campaign for 2017. Check back for updates.
A full statement from the Queensland Greens on the plan to stop the Adani Carmichael coal mine can be read here, ‘The plan to stop Adani’.
Candidate for the seat of South Brisbane Amy MacMahon has responded with a five point plan to stop Adani legislatively.
The NAIF Act could only be amended in the Federal Parliament, Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility Act 2016.
An issue swirling in pre-election Queensland was the notion that the Queensland Government could veto the Federal Government’s Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility (NAIF) loan to the Adani Group to build the railway from Abbot Point to the Carmichael coal mine in the Galilee Basin. However, the states have a constitutional requirement to administer loans from the federal government.
In December 2016, the Greens called for the Queensland Government to stop the Adani loan. Lawyer and Greens candidate for Mount Coot-tha (now Maiwar) Michael Berkman said that a letter could be drafted by Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk to stop it. That letter was never generated and the issue has spilled into the 2017 election campaign.
Recently federal Greens MP Adam Bandt indicated in the House of Representatives that the strategy was to obtain the balance of power in the Queensland Parliament.
As the Queensland Greens have seized this as a key election policy, what steps would the Greens now undertake to veto the loan and stop Adani? So, if the Queensland Greens were given the balance of power on November 25th, what specific legislative and/or constitutional steps would they undertake to veto the NAIF loan? How would they ultimately go about stopping Adani?
Shortly before the Queensland election was announced, a ReachTel poll commissioned by the Stop Adani Alliance was published in The Guardian asked respondents, ‘Should the Queensland government veto any $1bn federal loan to Adani?’
I asked economists, journalists and academics about the specific mechanism that would enable this to happen. Author of the piece at The Guardian, Michael Slezak responded in a roundabout way and pointed me to an article at The Conversation by Senior Lecturer in Law at the University of Tasmania Brendan Gogarty, Australia’s $1 billion loan to Adani is ripe for a High Court challenge. Gogarty confirmed the constitution requirement for federal funding to pass through the state. He plunges deep into the history of section 96 of the Australian Constitution and concludes that the veto plan would likely end up in the High Court. However, what issues for other Commonwealth funding might this raise if the High Court were to decide the state had a case?
Queensland economist Gene Tunny couldn’t see how the Queensland could veto the NAIF loan.
Professor Graeme Orr from the University of Queensland argues that the Queensland premier couldn’t constitutionally stop the federal loan.
I showed journalist Michael Slezak Professor Orr’s response.
Dr Tim Seelig from the Queensland Conservation Council says the NAIF could only be stopped at the federal level.
Over a few Twitter chats, deputy editor of The Townsville Bulletin Damien Tomlinson, says the Adani mine is wanted by locals for the jobs it will bring. He also says the NAIF must be administered by the state.
So, the question for the Queensland Greens remains. Should they win the balance of power in the Queensland Parliament, what steps will they, in specific legislative and/or constitutional terms take to veto the NAIF loan to Adani and ultimately stop the Carmichael coal mine?
-More to come