Contributed by Jim Hayes
As people campaigning against the Adani Carmichael coal mine rallied again in Brisbane, Steve Ciobo, the minister for trade, complains that activists are stopping the banks from financing the project and are pushing them into pulling away from the coal industry altogether.
He therefore suggests that the government must step in to fill the “market gap”. In other words, government should subsidise the industry through taxpayers’ money.
The generosity is likely to include the Adani mine.
Ciobo openly admits that money from the Export Finance and Insurance Corporation (Efic), will be handed out and the lending criteria of the corporation will to be changed to enable this.
The minister said in parliament:
“I’m increasing the scope of Efic’s statement of expectation, so that Efic has got more ability to finance onshore resource projects.
“Now … what are some of the radical groups doing that is threatening this? The fact is that we are seeing a campaign. We’ve seen, for example, the stepped-up campaign of activist groups which is discouraging our major retail banks from financing otherwise viable exporters in the coal sector.
“But it’s not just about coal, it’s also about what we can do in other sectors within resources,” he said.
Adani is already seeking a loan of up to $900m from Naif, to help build a rail line between the mine and the Abbot point coal terminal near the Great Barrier Reef. Adani may nowapply for more and be given what he wants.
Although opponents are having have an impact, they are not decisive in causing the banks to pull away. Public opinion is and this has turned against an industry widely regarded as dirty, in terms of creating carbon emissions. So much that the industry has launched a major advertising campaign to win people back to coal.
The government refuses to acknowledge this, and in turn, this feeds the growing perception that its actions are being driven by underlying corruption and a growing body of opinion is calling for an inquiry into political donations.
Overriding it all is the growing awareness that global warming is a reality and can no longer be taken as just a theoretical proposition. Weather is seen to be starting to change, including in
The call for the Australian government to act decisively on the issue of global warming is getting louder. So far, the government is refusing to listen.
The banks are taking note though. They know that the strength of public opinion will affect their bottom line, if they do not pay heed to it. By pulling away, they are showing that they are much smarter than our politicians.
By financing coal and Adani, Malcolm Turnbull and his band are hammering one more nail into their own political coffin. In the short-term, they may be breathing a little air into a sick industry. It remains that the illness is terminal and will not be saved.
The government’s action gives added credence to evidence suggesting that coal mining in Australia is in trouble.
Demand for coal is falling. Alternatives are becoming increasingly viable and cheaper. Keeping Australia dependent on coal is not doing us any favours. Money spent on this near corpse would be much better devoted to transitioning away from coal and building up what will serve us well in the future.