ABC’s blind spot on Adani coal mine

The ABC passed an unhappy milestone recently — more than half its staff work from their inner-city Sydney headquarters.

Perhaps that is why some of the ABC’s reporting on major issues fails to hear from those who live further away. For example, the ABC’s reporting on coal is, at times, nothing but “fake news”.

Last week ABC radio’s AM reported that a “new national electricity plan says India will not need any additional coal-fired energy capacity in the next decade”. Based on this statement, the ABC used its reports to question whether the Adani mine, in central Queensland, would proceed.

That same Indian government plan actually says that “a total capacity of 50,025MW coal-based power projects is currently under different stages of construction”.

In other words, the ABC could have reported that “a new Indian government report shows that India is on track to build the equivalent of 30 Hazelwood coal-fired power stations over the next five years”. But it didn’t.

Adani plans to build, in energy equivalent terms, 4½ of those 30 Hazelwoods. The Indian report went on to predict that a total of 94,000 MW of coal-fired power would be built over the next decade. That is more than three times the entire installed capacity of Australia’s coal-fired power fleet.

It said that, within a decade, India will need an additional 300 million tonnes of coal a year. That would be seven Carmichael coalmines. By failing to provide Australians with these basic facts, the ABC reports on this topic are incomplete at best, and misleading at worst. We all have our blind spots and the ABC has a large one when it comes to coal.

The ABC made much of, in its words, the “complex” and “opaque” structure of Adani’s companies. None of this structure is inconsistent with Australia’s laws and neither is it particularly opaque. Just look at the publicly available documents.

The one group of people who are often absent from the ABC’s reporting on the Adani Carmichael mine are the people who are most affected by it in north Queensland. Rarely is there a viewpoint on the ABC from those who live north of the Tropic of Capricorn and near the Great Barrier Reef.

We in north Queensland want to protect the reef. It is a great asset. But locals do need something to do between Monday and Friday to pay the bills.

Right now there are many towns in north Queensland with unemployment rates of higher than 10 per cent. We need projects that provide jobs and the Adani Carmichael mine project will deliver thousands of them.

The Australian government has established a $5 billion Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility to build economic infrastruc­ture in the north.

The NAIF is considering a loan that Adani and the Queensland Labor government have asked for to build a rail line to the Galilee Basin.

The opening up of the Galilee Basin will be big news for Australia. It will be the first new coal basin opened here for more than 40 years.

There are three other mining ventures, apart from Adani, looking to establish mines there. Adani has said that it will allow these other mines to access its rail line.

Initially the rail line will be built to carry 40 million tonnes of coal a year, of which Adani plans to use only 25 million tonnes. An open-access rail line would be a condition of any government funding.

Unlike the ABC, Adani plans to move jobs to the regions. It has announced that its headquarters will be in Townsville and that will create hundreds of administrative and professional jobs for north Queensland — not just mining jobs.

Which raises the question, why don’t more Australian corporations move to the bush? Why does the ABC need a HQ in the middle of the biggest city in Australia, which is already swamped with commercial news services?

This opinion article was originally published in The Australian on December 29, 2016.

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