Dawson MP George Christensen with Adani Group chairman Gautam Adani. Photo Contributed
Dawson MP George Christensen with Adani Group chairman Gautam Adani. Photo Contributed Contributed

Mackay's support for Adani could sway federal politicians

THE right to challenge government approvals in court could be taken away from environmental groups before the end of the year.

After connections between a US Presidential advisor and Australian groups opposing Adani's coal mine were revealed by Wikileaks, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said he will consider introducing a bill to stop court challenges from those who were not directly impacted by a project.

As the legislation is already drafted, since it was put to the senate and rejected last year, Federal Member for Dawson George Christensen said he will ask Mr Turnbull to introduce the bill this year.

The change to the Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Conversation Act would remove the right of any citizen 'who has engaged in conservation activity in the past two years' to bring a legal challenge to governments environmental approvals.

It would ensure only those "directly affected" would have that right.

Although the Labor Party has already indicated it would not support the amendment, Mr Christensen believed there was a possibility Labor supporters from this region would be able to change their minds once the bill was put up.

He pointed to the full page advertisement that ran in News Corp and APN newspapers, including the Daily Mercury, yesterday as evidence to the projects wide-ranging support.

"This is (an issue) crossing the political divide in the region," Mr Christensen said.

However, Mackay Conservation Group coordinator Peter McCallum believed the advertisement, with a generic image of "serious looking business people" spoke more strongly to the lack of support for the project.

"Adani couldn't even find real people to go into their ad campaign. Adani's stock and trade is misinformation and this ad campaign is no exception," Mr McCallum said.

"If we were to run newspaper ads we'd have no trouble finding Mackay residents, Indigenous representatives, farmers, reef scientists and tourism operators to have their photos taken."

He also believed the Prime Ministers talk of limiting the ability of environmental groups to appeal government approvals was heavy-handed, even following the Wikileaks revelations.

The Wikileaks emails lead some to wonder whether foreign donations were being awarded to Australian conservationists to ensure the Adani mine would never have the chance to compete with their own coal mining sector.

"If no one is there taking up responsibility and advocating for the environment, who is going to do it?," Mr McCallum said.

"People who donate, donate for a range of reasons. Everyone has their own motivation and we don't ask them."

But he said the group had not received donations from overseas coal mining competitors.

Following the news federal government would spend $7m sealing the Clermont to Alpha road to open up the Galilee Basin, Mr Christensen yesterday also urged Adani to apply to the $5b Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility to build rail lines.

But when asked whether this spending of taxpayer money breached any promises made by the government not to spend money on the coal mine he was adamant it did not.

"What the Prime Minister said was that no money would go to Adani's coal mine," Mr Christensen said.

"This road upgrade doesn't really help Adani. It helps us as a region."

He said this was because it would make the Galilee Basin much more accessible for METS sector businesses to support the project.

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