Senators Murray Watt and Matt Canavan both support the Adani coal mine, but have differing views on the legal challenges which have stalled the project. File cartoon.
Senators Murray Watt and Matt Canavan both support the Adani coal mine, but have differing views on the legal challenges which have stalled the project. File cartoon.

Mayors call on politicians to stop Adani 'red tape'

THE mayors of several regional Queensland regions have called on all State and Federal politicians to support Adani's Charmichael Coal Mine.

In an open letter, the mayors and business representatives, including Rockhampton Region mayor Margaret Strelow, state the project cannot afford any "new roadblocks or delays including new water legislation that activists can exploit in new court appeals to kill this project".

It comes after discussions about the legitimacy of appeals against the project in the Galilee Basin and revelations the lead Australian group protesting the mine is backed by multi-million dollar American green group The Sandler Foundation.

Rockhampton-based LNP Senator and Minister for Resources and Northern Australia Matt Canavan told The Morning Bulletin it wasn't legitimate for groups like the Sandler Foundation to "use and abuse our legal system to further political goals, not environmental goals".

"We know that's exactly what these groups are doing, because they've said so themselves," he said.

Listen to Matt Canavan speak about the project below: 

Mr Canavan referenced a document made public where groups state they're seeking to enter legal challenges "to create breathing space for a political campaign".

"It's not to win the case, not to better protect the environment, but simply to delay and disrupt these projects and for some projects delay means death," he said. "There is a clear and coordinated level of abuse happening here."

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Last year, the LNP proposed changes to the environment protection act to limit the action which could be taken in court.

That failed in the senate, although Mr Canavan said there were some Labor MPs supportive of more restrains on green groups.

Mr Canavan said the government would investigate what may be possible with a fresh group of senators.

Speaking on Sky News earlier this week, Mr Canavan said many people in Central Queensland wanted the mine, and the thousands of associated jobs, to go ahead.

"The traditional owners want it, the local business groups want it, local people want it, and how much more do we have to say we want it before we get it," he said.

He said the mine would only go ahead with "very stringent conditions".

Queensland Labor senator Murray Watt said the party at both a State and Federal level was "very supportive" of mining and of the project in particular, provided it met environmental requirements.

Listen to Murray Watt speak about the project below: 

"This is a massive project and it's got the potential to create thousands of jobs which would be fantastic for regional Queensland, but it also will have major environmental impacts in sensitive areas like the Great Barrier Reef," Mr Watt said.

"We don't support any changes to remove Australian's rights to challenge unlawful project approvals which could do serious damage to our environment."

Mr Watt said the laws, introduced by Liberal Prime Minister John Howard, were not a "Labor plot" and recognised there were some areas of national and international significance.

"We think the way to solve the Adani delays is for the Turnbull Government to make some decisions which comply with the law," he said. "These laws have been around for more than 15 years and both Labor and Liberal Governments have been able to handle approvals for mining projects under that system without there being any problem."

Mr Watt said legal challenges stemmed from an Abbott Government decision and, if legal process had been followed in that approval, "the mine may well be up and running by now".


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He said it would be wrong to remove the public's right to challenge illegally approved projects.

Of the financial involvement of international organisations, Mr Watt said it demonstrated the areas affected by the proposed mine had international importance.

"The Great Barrier Reef is not just something that's important to people in Rockhampton or Mackay or Cairns or Brisbane, it's actually important to the world," he said. "I think it is reasonable for people, no matter where they live, to show an interest in environmental areas that are internationally significant."

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