Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk has tied Labor tightly into the disastrous Adani coal mine venture in the Galilee Basin west of Mackay. She beat Liberal Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull to India to dance attendance on the billionaire mine developer Gautam Adani.
Yet most Australians oppose the massive coal mine and a whopping majority is appalled by the prospect of $1 billion of taxpayers' money being chanelled to Adani through the Nationals' Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility (NAIF).
Was there ever a greater disjunct between Australain voters, in particular Queenslanders, and their elected representatives? Not really. But the prior problem is with the voters: they have relegated the future of the biosphere to well behind the time-honoured big-parties' jockeying for votes on the basis of 'jobs and growth' and pure hip-pocket-nerve selfishness. Future generations can go wring their hands.
People before profit?
Never has there been a more urgent need for state and national action to protect the environment but not for decades has the environment figured so low in voters' interest. Whether this is due to the failure of vision in the mass human intelligence, or the opiate of Materialism and unprecedented civil wealth, or the predominanace of the venal Murdoch media, or the corporate take-over of law-making in Australia to sideline much of the previously feisty environment movement, is food for many a PhD.
Whatever, at the last federal election, 90 per cent of Australians — the percentage was higher in Queensland — voted for parties backing the Adani mine as well as more coal ports inside the Great Barrier Reef. Each of those voters made a deliberated choice. It is not tenable to say the coal mine issue wasn't known or that global warming, Great Barrier Reef bleaching, and more destructive cyclones and bushfires as a result of burning coal, haven't been a matter of scientific and public knowledge for decades.
How issues are prioritised is up to voters: that's democracy.
The next voter test on Adani is coming right down the line. Queenslanders will go to the polls before Easter 2018 and speculation of an October 2017 poll is rife.
The Labor Party and Premier Palaszczuk expect to win and, if so, will claim it as an endorsement of their Adani project. There is one hurdle for the premier to cross before making good that claim — the Queensland Greens. This small party, which has been plugging away since Drew Hutton and friends set it up in 1984, is resurging. In April I attended a Greens' Stop-Adani night at the University of Queensland and it was a boomer.
The real opposition
The Queensland Greens have got the election formula spot-on: good policies (including no new coal mines and saving the Great Barrier Reef and the 70,000 jobs it upholds), good campaigning (street-front offices in each inner-city electorate and door-knocking well under way, as well as top-rate candidates in the electable seats. I caught up with Kirsten Lovejoy (McConnel), Amy MacMahon (South Brisbane) and Michael Berkman (Maiwar, the new seat at Mt Cootha) and was mightily impressed. Get them onto the floor of Queensland's unicameral Parliament and whichever old party wins government will at last have a real opposition.
What the Queensland Greens don't have is money. In a state where mining money sloshes into the old party coffers in millions of dollars this is a big and real disadvantage. Every one of us has to think about helping offset this disadvantage as best we can. Donations are tax-deductible. Here is a real opportunity for folk worried by the appalling Adani prospect to give true campaigners the aid they urgently need.
It's up to us
At the Brisbane Stop Adani meeting, I reiterated my intention to take a busload of Tasmanians up to the Galilee Basin if the Adani mine goes ahead. And I will. But the priority is to stop the mine starting. This requires our nationwide campaign to keep rapidly building. As part of that, the state election in Queensland offers a golden opportunity for all of us to help balance the huge lobby and electoral funding impact of the mining industry, including Adani.
Don't be deterred by the false supposition that Adani is a Queensland issue and the rest of us should butt out. Besides the bleeding obvious that Mr Adani is not a local either, his mega-mine will pump up the greenhouse gasses in our already overloaded atmosphere and worsen things for all human beings yet to come. We are all involved.
I had no worries speaking up in Brisbane. In the 1980s the great Joh Bjelke-Petersen himself flew down to Tasmania to campaign for the Franklin River to be dammed: he licensed all of us, in 2017, to get stuck right into one of the biggest single environment issues on the planet — stopping the irresponsible madness of the Queensland Adani coal mine.
Bob Brown is the president of the Bob Brown Foundation. He led the campaign to save the Franklin River in the 1980s, served 10 years in the Tasmanian Parliament, and was an Australian Greens Senator for 16 years. He was the parliamentary leader of the Australian Greens from 2005 to 2012. Image of Bob Brown by Russell Shakespeare. Image of coal machinery by Julian Meehan.