COVER STORY Money flows freely to fuel anti-coal campaign
by Chris McCormack
News Weekly, March 11, 2017
The plan to annihilate Australia’s coalmining industry has geared up another notch with the launch of a $1 million campaign aimed at preventing Queensland’s $22 billion Adani-Carmichael Coalmine from being built in the Galilee Basin.
The Australian Conservation Foundation, GetUp and a host of other organisations have planned a campaign blitz targeting 13 marginal Federal Coalition seats and at least three Queensland state seats, according to The Age newspaper. The campaign will employ advertising, social media and cold calling as a means to influence voters in the hope of ejecting Members of Parliament favourable to mining.
Miriam Lyons from GetUp admitted: “We’re aiming to make 50,000 calls into these seats over the next three months, and have conversations with at least the number of people that is equal to that MP’s margin in votes.”
Who knows who you’ll be sharing the dark with once some of the over 600 green groups on the Government’s Register of Environmental Organisations have conspired to put your lights out.
Of particular interest to the campaigners is stopping the $1 billion concessional loan to Adani the Federal Government is considering, which would help fund the 400-kilometre long railway line to link the mine with the port at Abbot Point.
The railway is essential for transporting coal from the mine to port and beyond, and its importance is not lost on the organisations determined to destroy the entire project.
The Federal Government will need to resist these activists’ attempts to undermine its viability if it is serious about facilitating the estimated 10,000 jobs, both directly and indirectly, the project will create.
Other campaign tactics include lobbying Westpac to join the other three big banks in refusing to fund coal projects, and tying up coal companies in legal action in the courts with efforts to delay the project and ultimately kill it off.
Market Forces, an affiliate project of Friends of the Earth Australia, is one of the groups involved in the anti-coal campaign. One of its raisons d’etre is targeting banks and forcing them to stop lending to fossil-fuel projects through advertising campaigns and public shaming. After NAB ruled out funding the project and indicated it would take a leading role in developing renewable energy, Market Forces lead campaigner Julian Vincent gloated: “After recently calling for businesses to support the project, NAB have taken exactly the opposite step.”
Cutting the funding
Commonwealth Bank, too, having previously acted as adviser to Australia’s biggest coal project, then decided to sever ties with Adani, citing it had tightened its environmental and social-governance policies at its annual shareholder meeting last November. And the Sunrise Project, another group involved in the anti-coal campaign, boasted on its website: “Internationally our campaign partners persuaded Standard Chartered to cancel their arrangement with Adani.”
Another group involved, 350.org, is determined to stop the Federal Government loan. “This is an atrocious decision today by the Federal Government to provide taxpayer funding to an overseas company that wants to build a mega coalmine in Queensland at a time when no new coalmines can go ahead if we want a liveable climate,” 350.org Queensland campaigner, Moira Williams, gushed.
“If we want a safe climate, this coalmine cannot go ahead. Climate change is killing the Great Barrier Reef, with a new survey out just last week showing that huge swathes of the reef are now dead. If this mine goes ahead it will spell more heatwaves, more climate bleaching and the end of our reef.
“350.org Australia and the community will do everything we can to ensure that private investors considering this project know we will stop this coalmine. The climate cannot afford another coalmine, let alone the largest coalmine in the country.”
These groups campaign under the guise of preventing a two-degree temperature rise resulting from “anthropogenic climate change” and the supposed resultant destruction of the Great Barrier Reef.
Despite the fact that climate science has not proven “anthropogenic climate change” and revelations of fake evidence (as per the discredited National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration report and Climategate) being used to back up dire predictions, their alarmist rhetoric aimed at destroying Australia’s coal industry finds favour within the mainstream media, NGO’s and some government advisers with vested interests. Many are too ignorant or spineless to challenge the scaremongering of these “loose with the truth” groups, while others capitulate to their intimidatory tactics.
In regards to the Great Barrier Reef, while some bleaching has occurred, there are many factors responsible. Even as some areas in the northern reef have experienced bleaching, others in the southern reef are experiencing coral proliferation. To blame “anthropogenic climate change” is simplistic and opportunistic.
The public face of the Galilee Blockade campaign is activist Ben Pennings, a Brisbane-based Lord Mayoral candidate. He says: “If you’re in bed with Adani in any major way, you’re a target. … If you’re a major contractor, you’re a target. If you’re providing finance, you’re a target. If you’re looking to provide finance, you’re a target.”
Intimidation is the name of the game employed by these activist groups in achieving their goals.
News Weekly has previously revealed that financial backing for the anti-Galilee Basin campaign has come from from U.S. billionaires (“Wikileaks reveals U.S, funding behind anti-coal campaign”, November 5, 2016). The U.S. Sandler Foundation, which received $US1.3 billion from the Sandler family in 2006, was exposed as a major funder of the Sunrise Project, a registered charity with the Australian Tax office.
In a leaked email, John Hepburn, executive director of the Sunrise Project, thanked Sergio Knaebel of the Sandler Foundation, saying: “Without your support none of this would have happened and the mine might have been half-built by now.
“… tomorrow afternoon I am going to buy a few bottles of bubbly for a celebration with the EDO [Environmental Defenders Office] legal team, our colleagues at Getup, Greenpeace, 350.org, ECF, Australian Youth Climate Coalition, Mackay Conservation Group, Market Forces and the brilliant and tireless Sunrise team.”
The well-funded, globally orchestrated campaign against coal has three prime targets. First, to shut 300 coal-fired power stations in the United States. Since 2010, 232 have either closed or been scheduled for retirement and, according to the Sierra Club, one of the groups involved in the anti-coal campaign, activism had stopped another 184 plants from being built.
Second, to shut down Australia’s coal industry and in particular to halt the development of the Galilee Basin, which would double Australia’s coal exports. Australia is already the world’s largest exporter of coal, which provides thousands of jobs and enormous revenue to this country.
Third, to stop the building of coal-fired power stations in India. India is a huge consumer of Australian coal in its power plants, providing electricity and lifting millions out of poverty. By closing down coal-fired power plants and preventing the building of new ones in India, the effect will be massively to reduce the demand for Australian coal.
Carbon-dioxide panic sees green groups proliferate
There are over 600 “environmental” groups listed as having tax deductibility status on the Federal Government’s Register of Environmental Organisations. The Federal Government needs, as a matter of urgency, to investigate what foreign funding is being channelled through these organisations with the express aim of destroying our coal industry.
Some of these groups are hell-bent on closing down one of Australia’s most valuable industries, one that helped navigate Australia through the global financial crisis.
Why is the Government providing tax deductibility status to organisations determined to destroy our coal industry, jobs and our standard of living along with it? Now, more than ever, this industry is needed to counter the economic winds of change, keep Aussies employed, taxes low and prevent government debt from ballooning into an even more perilous state.
The Government cannot afford to be asleep at the wheel on this. Our future prosperity hangs in the balance. We don’t want to wake up one day and discover foreign funding has by stealth crippled our industry and shattered Australia’s economy.