Contributed from Townsville
Yesterday (23 January), the Townsville City Council was shut down, in the face of angry residents, opposed to the decision to provide $18.5 million, in order to help billionaire coal miner Adani build an airstrip, at his Carmichael mine in the Galilee Basin.
The protest was led by the activist organisation Front Line Action on Coal. Slogans were shouted from the public gallery and major Jenny Hill adjourned the proceedings. They were reconvened later on, with police blocking people from re-entering the building and making their way to the public gallery.
Elena Jeffrey, spokeswoman for the group and a local resident says that there is concern about the secrecy behind the deal.
“I came because it’s Townsville Council’s open day. It’s the day when they are inviting Townsville residents to come and ask questions…and I’m really concerned about the secrecy of the minutes and details of the $28.5 million contribution the proposed airstrip,” she said.
Townsville Council has been an avid supporter of Adani all along, claiming that the alliance would bring benefits to the local economy. It claims that by now contributing to the airstrip, the city would be made into a hub for 900 first in first out (FIFO) workers at the Carmichael mine.
This is open to dispute and critics point out that the claimed benefit to the local economy is greatly exaggerated, and as far as becoming a FIFO hub, Townsville is competing with Rockhampton, which is also contributing a lot of money to the airstrip. The prize will not go to both. And there has been to answer as to why Adani has not agreed to use the already existing airport in Townsville for the project. It is an indication that the city might be bypassed.
Apart from all this, the destruction of farmland and the Great Barrier Reef from the Adani operations will take much more from the local economy than any minor benefits that might come out of the partnership with Adani.
Ms Jeffrey said, “It’s been three months since the decision was made and even separate to commercial in confidence, the council has to explain what the benefits are”.
Federal MP Bob Katter has added his voice to those demanding an explanation.
There is a feeling that sweet talking Adani representatives and five star trips to India have bought councilors.