The Queensland Government and Indian coal conglomerate Adani are mired in controversy again this week, with a freedom of information request uncovering documents that show the Queensland Treasury not only assessed the $16 billion Carmichael mine as unbankable, but it was frozen out of key decisions on the project.
The documents show that Adani’s high level of debt and unclear corporate structure left senior Treasury officials expressing serious concerns about approving the mine.
They were worried the project would be pushed through without proper due diligence by the Department of State Development, Infrastructure and Planning, led by Deputy Premier Jeff Seeney.
In November 2014, Seeney’s department signed a series of agreements with Adani, putting Queensland taxpayers on the hook for $455 million without any guarantee it would be repaid. Since then, the incoming Palaszczuk Labor government delayed Abbot Point dredging decisions and promised to cut taxpayer support for the controversial rail link between the Galilee basin and the port.
As both are needed for Adani’s project to get off the ground, Adani recently suspended work on the Carmichael project and rumours are circulating that it may dump it altogether.
This has been interpreted as a veiled threat to the government to get on with approvals and taxpayer support, which appears to have worked, with it calling for expressions of interest on port dredging.
With a UNESCO decision on the Great Barrier Reef “in danger” listing imminent, the Palaszczuk government has a crucial decision to make.
It can either stick to its election mandate and protect the Great Barrier Reef; or it can break its major election promise, ignore treasury advice, due diligence, and revelations of inflated job and royalty figures, and risk the reef for an unbankable, unburnable coal project.