Opposition Leader Bill Shorten insists his party is “united” ahead of the election despite a looming crisis in the key battleground state of Queensland, where uncertainty over Labor’s position on the Adani coal mine could put key seats at risk.Source: Fairfax Media
‘Don’t buy into the fake coal war’: Union calls on Labor candidates to back mining
The Queensland mining division of the powerful Construction, Forestry, Maritime, Mining and Energy Union on Thursday issued an ultimatum to Labor candidates in the state, asking that they sign a pledge outlining their support for coal industry jobs.
Third generation coal miner Russell Robertson was the only Queensland Labor candidate to have signed the pledge at the time of publication.
When interviewed, Mr Robertson – who is running in the ultra-marginal seat of Capricornia, held by Liberal National MP Michelle Landry – steered carefully around the topic of Adani’s planned Carmichael mine.
He emphasised that there were “six other projects” in the Galilee basin that could provide coal jobs to workers in North Queensland.
“I’m going to do my best to make sure every one of those six projects get up and running,” Mr Robertson said.
“I don’t buy into the fake coal war of the LNP. That’s a real scare campaign,” he said of suggestions Labor was split over mining.
Labor has expressed scepticism over the Adani project, saying it should not receive public funding and must stack up financially and environmentally.
Mr Shorten used the word “united” nine times to describe his party at his first press conference of the election campaign in Melbourne on Thursday.
Asked if he would pledge to enable Labor MPs to have “a full and frank debate” about the Adani mine, he said “my people are free to speak”.
The CFMMEU pledge states: “I support coal mining jobs and recognise their value to our communities … I support approval of coal mining developments that meet regulatory requirements”.
Mr Robertson said this was “entirely consistent” with Mr Shorten’s stated position on coal, and that he agreed a Labor government would need to “make sure the science is right, make sure it stacks up”.
“Everything needs to go through the same process. If they stand up, they stand up; if they don’t, they don’t,” he said.
The pledge also supports “ending the permanent casual rort in mining” and “fixing broken IR laws”.
Both Mr Shorten and Labor’s environment spokesman Tony Burke have accused Prime Minister Scott Morrison of calling the election on Thursday to avoid Senate estimates hearings that would have seen the CSIRO grilled about the government’s approval of Adani’s groundwater plan.
A Shorten government could use a separate water use plan to halt or delay the project, but Labor has refused to make its intentions clear.
A Labor spokesperson said “Queensland is always going to be a great mining exporter. We have said many times that coal is part of our energy mix going forward and will be so into the foreseeable future”.
CFMMEU Queensland mining president Stephen Smyth, who has threatened to withhold the union’s endorsement from any candidates who fail to declare their support for coal, said the remaining candidates would be well advised to sign.
He would not rule out endorsing non-Labor candidates, saying the division would have to consider each candidate and their policies on their merits.
Firebrand MP and CFMMEU member Bob Katter, whose Katter’s Australian Party is running seven candidates in Queensland, declared war on the Labor party on Thursday.
“This election is about who will own Australia and who will build Australia,” he said.
“The ALP with their vegan policies are not going to build – they are going to destroy what’s there.”
Mr Katter’s policy is for Adani’s Carmichael mine to go ahead, but for the Australian government to build and own the railway line to transport coal from the Galilee Basin.
Labor’s member for Herbert – the nation’s most marginal seat – Cathy O’Toole has refused media interviews on the topic of the Adani mine.