An excavator working at a Central Queensland coal mine
An excavator working at a Central Queensland coal mine

Labor haunted by mining mistakes of past

The question of the future of thermal coal mining in Queensland still deeply confounds the Left-dominated Palaszczuk government and is certain to be an election issue on October 31.

I was reminded of this twice during the week, once while touring Adani's emerging central Queensland coal mine and the second time while on a lunch run for a lamb wrap.

Not far from my suburban Brisbane home a tiny new Mediterranean takeaway joint has opened.

On the counter a plaque proudly boasts how the store was officially opened by senior Palaszczuk government minister Cameron Dick.

Adani Australia Mining CEO David Boshoff.
Adani Australia Mining CEO David Boshoff.

Yet 1200km away in the Galilee Basin, there's a massive project taking shape, one that is employing more than 1500 people and has awarded $1.5b worth of contracts to mostly Queensland companies, yet the government cannot bring itself to mention the owner's name.

New Adani Mining chief David Boshoff, laughed heartily when asked whether he expected any Palaszczuk government ministers would want to visit the site.

"Anyone can come out and see the progress," he managed diplomatically.

Yet they certainly don't find it so funny in regional Queensland where their way of life is under siege.

They haven't forgotten the black-throated finch debacle and the government's ham-fisted efforts to thwart Adani at the final hurdle.

They haven't forgotten former treasurer Jackie Trad telling coal miners that they'd have to retrain.

They haven't forgotten Bob Brown's cockamamie convoy or Bill Shorten's mealy-mouthed position on Adani during the federal election.

They also haven't forgotten Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk insisting Adani had nothing to do with federal Labor's election loss and then days later setting deadlines to get the Carmichael Mine approved.

Former deputy premier Jackie Trad said Queensland coal miners should start reskilling. Picture: Claudia Baxter
Former deputy premier Jackie Trad said Queensland coal miners should start reskilling. Picture: Claudia Baxter

The COVID-19 crisis, particularly how the government has handled it and how Queensland will recover from it, may be the pervading issue in the southeast corner during the state election.

But in regional Queensland it's the same argument about the economy and financial disenfranchisement that's been going on for years, which has only been amplified by the pandemic.

They're concerned about stores closing and jobs going.

They see and hear about government ministers swinging into town to try and convince people about all the infrastructure being built to help the local economy turn the corner.

But it's all starting to sound a bit like a broken record.

The problem is Labor hasn't been able to shake the anti-resources reputation it earned during Adani's long fight to win approval, particularly among the party's traditional base.

Clearly that message has been sent by members to the CFMEU, with the union pulling its mining and construction divisions from Labor's Left faction and promising not to pour money into Ms Palaszczuk's re-election campaign.

"It seems to be that (state Labor) are actually making the same mistakes that (federal Labor) did," CFMEU boss Michael Ravbar said.

This view is being compounded by the government's stance on the New Acland Stage 3, another thermal coal mine proposal where politics has warped standard approval processes.

CFMEU boss Michael Ravbar says Labor in Queensland is making the same mistakes on mining as federal politicians. Picture: (News Corp/Attila Csaszar)
CFMEU boss Michael Ravbar says Labor in Queensland is making the same mistakes on mining as federal politicians. Picture: (News Corp/Attila Csaszar)

Owner New Hope, which has been forced to sack workers while it waits for court decisions, has been travelling regional Queensland to warn the same could happen to other proposals.

These communities don't need much convincing.

In regional Queensland, they know the resources sector has been the golden goose for decades and projects like Adani's are what's needed.

When they look south all they see is a Brisbane-centric Labor trying to spruik a lamb wrap-led recovery.


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