Gautam boys

It was a stunt. This fact makes the legitimacy given to it by Queensland premier Annastacia Palaszczuk and federal resources minister Matt Canavan doubly galling.

Adani claims it has given the “green light” to its huge mine in the Galilee Basin. Palaszczuk repeats the lie that this is a boon for jobs. Canavan calls it “a great future now that we can all get along and work on”.

The support of both governments for this project is pathological. It speaks of the sickness at the heart of our politics. This is not about the meagre jobs the mine might create. It is about punishing the environment as if it were an enemy.

The desire to build this doomed mine, to cut its useless rail line halfway across the state, is about saying to a handful of backward voters that contemporary thought won’t trouble a people who can’t imagine a life that isn’t dug from the earth. It’s about saying the modern world can go on everywhere but rural Queensland.

Adani has not secured the financing it needs for the project. Contractor Downer EDI has no binding deal from the company.

Loans have been refused by 19 banks, the most recent being Westpac. In Gujarat, in India, the power station that was to take more than half the mine’s coal looks unable to justify the import costs.

Rising debts mean Adani may have to begin selling assets. The coal terminal at Abbot Point is one of these. Meanwhile, renewable energy is ever cheaper.

Adani’s announcement this week was like a historical re-enactment, like a few excited mates putting on pantaloons and false beards and having their sepia picture taken in a replica saloon. It was an announcement from a different time, unbound by reality.

This mine is a farce. The coal it would excavate grows more worthless each day. The desire to see that excavation becomes more desperate and illogical.

In making this week’s announcement, Gautam Adani had the defiant air of an industrialist gone mad. His announcement was as much about business as about the imagined enemy of the environmental movement.

“We have been challenged by activists in the courts, in inner-city streets, and even outside banks that have not even been approached to finance the project,” he said. “We are still facing activists. But we are committed to this project.”

The company’s choice of the phrase “green light” for this project was unfortunate. But there it was in the press release: “Adani Project Gets Green Light.”

The phrase recalls the pass Roger Rogerson gave to Neddy Smith in the 1970s, a kind of licence to commit violent crime in exchange for stability in the underworld. Rogerson is now disgraced, serving life for murder, regarded as a serial killer.

The green light was never about the law. It was about rank opportunism. The same could be said of the Adani mine and the politics that supports it. Rogerson’s green light is regarded now as a shameful relic; Adani’s will soon be, too.

This article was first published in the print edition of The Saturday Paper on June 10, 2017 as "Gautam boys".

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