Tuesday 24th Oct, 2017

Rail funding for Adani would breach policy, green group claims

Photo: RailGallery.com.au
Photo: RailGallery.com.au

The Australian Conservation Foundation (ACF) says a $1 billion loan from the Commonwealth’s Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility (NAIF) for a rail line to Adani’s Carmichael coal project in Queensland should be in breach of the NAIF’s directives.

The ACF last week rejected Adani’s push for NAIF funding, saying directors of the government facility would be in breach of their duties if they helped finance the rail line.

The ACF believes the Public Governance, Performance and Accountability Act, which governs the NAIF, requires the fund to consider the financial risks from climate change in its decision making.

The ACF believes this “requisite standard of care and diligence” should prohibit NAIF investment in the proposed Adani and Aurizon rail projects, which would transport coal from the mine to port.

“The Adani coal mine will fuel the global warming that is making the Reef sick, threaten 70,000 tourism jobs that rely on it, and divert urgent investment from renewable energy,” ACF president Geoff Cousins said.

“If NAIF Board directors burn $1 billion of public money on coal infrastructure that will help destroy the Reef and jobs, then absolutely they should be held to account.”

Cousins said the ACF would consider all avenues and legal options to stop the project from getting government funding.

“NAIF must consider climate risks,” he said.

“These are assets that will be useless within a decade.

“Investment in coal infrastructure risks public money and in the meantime helps to drive dangerous global warming.

“NAIF directors who support it should be held accountable.”

Environmental Justice Australia lawyer David Barnden said NAIF directors would expose Australian taxpayers – and themselves – to “huge risks” if they gave a loan to the proposed coal railway.

“Our analysis concludes NAIF directors will breach their duties if they support any rail project to cart coal from the Galilee Basin to the Great Barrier Reef coast,” Barnden said.

“Recent legal developments mean NAIF support for Adani’s coal project – which is incompatible with keeping global warming below 2°C – would put the NAIF directors in conflict with their duties.”

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull visited with Adani chairman Guatan Adani during a trip to India last week.

Turnbull confirmed he had discussed the company’s plans to apply for a $1 billion loan under the NAIF.

“Mr Adani in our discussions simply noted that his company expects to make an application to the NAIF on the basis that we’ve described several times,” the PM said.

“That’s got an independent board, it will assess the application on its merits and it is obviously going to be dependent on there being other funding as well from the private sector, from external sources to support the railway line.”

Turnbull also indicated his Cabinet was working to progress legislation which will overturn a controversial decision in the Federal Court in February, which enforced the Native Title Act requirement that an Indigenous land use agreement must be signed by all traditional owners to be valid.