This op-ed by Dr Ben Habib, La Trobe University Lecturer in International Relations and former WATCH member, was submitted to The Border Mail but unfortunately not published.
The Carmichael coal mine proposed by Indian mining company Adani in Queensland is an issue of direct importance to everyone, including residents of the Border region. Sussan Ley, the local Member for Farrer, appears unwilling to constructively engage with concerned local citizens on this serious issue.
In tabling a petition from local constituents opposing the Adani coal mine proposal on February 8th, the Hansard records Sussan Ley using two distinct word tricks to distance herself from the petition and attempt to de-legitimise the views expressed in the petition. First, Ley distanced herself from the petition, saying that “This [the Adani coal mine] is a very important and emotional issue for many of them.” Second, Ley suggests that the Stop Adani group have expressed their views to her “very forcefully.” Both statements are well-worn political dog whistles that blindly dismiss calls for evidence-based climate change policies as the bleatings of bleeding-heart leftists and dangerous political extremists. This kind of rhetoric is a juvenile caricature that misrepresents this very serious issue.
One of the key claims of conservative thinking historically is that conservatism is based on managing the world as it is. Unfortunately, however, when it comes to climate change and energy policies, many conservative politicians in Australia have adopted pro-coal positions that are divorced from the reality. It is disappointing to see that the Member for Farrer has hitched her wagon to such discredited thinking. This is not about respecting a range of views, it is about engaging in evidence-based policy making.
The scientific reality is that thousands of peer-reviewed studies by experts from around the world, conducting independent research projects across numerous scientific disciplines, have long converged on the view that urgent action is required to reduce the concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.
The market reality is that coal is a bad investment. Energy generation around the world is increasingly moving away from fossil fuels to alternative energy sources, as the climate emergency and market trends make fossil fuel energy uneconomic. Investments in coal projects are becoming stranded assets, a black hole for investment funding. This is reflected in the depressed market price for coal as well as the growing unwillingness of investment banks to finance new coal mines. It is mystifying why the government would advocate wasting public money on the Adani project in opposition to the clear and consistent international market signal against expanded coal production.
This is a matter that transcends the nauseating left-right debates of political culture warriors. It is about preserving the fragile ecological conditions that support our economy and society. As a former resident of Albury-Wodonga and a regular visitor to the region, I am disheartened that the Member for Farrer does not understand the connection between the Adani coal mine and the well-being of the local community. Her statements show her to be treating climate change as an ideological issue, instead of one of the most pressing and urgent policy challenges that elected representatives of all political stripes need to face.