It may have the Turnbull and Palaszczuk governments firmly in its corner, but the Adani super-mine is facing a formidable new opponent: the Christian faith.
The Catholic and Anglican bishops of Townsville have issued a joint statement to their followers criticising “projected mega-mining developments across Queensland, especially the Galilee Basin”, and accusing politicians and big business of failing to protect the common good.
The bishops’ message puts them head-to-head with Adani, the Indian mining behemoth behind the $16.5 billion Carmichael mine proposed for the Galilee Basin. It also puts them at odds with the local council and state and federal governments, which resoundingly support the project.
Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk’s campaign speech was interrupted by anti-Adani protesters. Photo: Darren England
Adani has located its regional headquarters in Townsville, and the statement will fuel debate in the already divided community over what would be Australia’s biggest coal mine.
The Right Reverend William Ray of the Anglican Diocese of North Queensland, and the Most Reverend Timothy Harris of the Catholic Diocese of Townsville, issued the statement to their parishes on Saturday.
They cited Pope Francis’ groundbreaking encyclical on the environment in June 2015, in which he said “the Earth, our home, is beginning to look … like an immense pile of filth”.
“We, too, as bishops in north Queensland, have concerns about many global and local issues that are impacting negatively on our environment and which require greater dialogue, examination, prayer and action,” the statement said.
The bishops said human dominion over the planet should be understood as “responsible stewardship”, especially to future generations.
“The elephant in the room is obviously the impending loss of the Great Barrier Reef with back-to-back yearly coral bleaching across two thirds of its length,” they said.
The bishops lamented toxic run-off, increased sea freight traffic and marine pollution, adding that government spending to fix the reef’s problems was “not matching needs”.
They did not name the Adani mine, but warned against “projected mega-mining developments across Queensland, especially the Galilee Basin”, adding such projects sought to exploit a “coal resource for all ages.”
“Politics and business have been slow to provide strong leadership or urgency for the common good: a leadership that incorporates environmental issues as much as the financial, social or political issues,” the statement said.
“Although there are a limited number of politicians who are active on behalf of the environment, they are to be commended.”
The statement reflected the personal view of the bishops. It also expressed concern about a lack of recognition for indigenous people, land clearing, a lack of transparency by big business and a gap between the “haves” and the “have-nots”.
Adani’s Carmichael mine has emerged as a key issue in the Queensland state election, to be held on November 25.
Adani protesters reportedly heckled Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk and Opposition Leader Tim Nicholls on the campaign trail on Sunday and Monday.
The mine would extract 2.3 billion tonnes of coal over its 60-year life. Supporters say it will bring much-needed jobs and social benefits to Townsville and the broader region. Detractors fear the effects on tourism and the environment – especially the Great Barrier Reef – and say the company’s promise of 10,000 new jobs is vastly inflated.
Federal Resources Minister Matt Canavan – back in the job on Friday after the High Court confirmed he was eligible to sit in Parliament – reportedly listed the Adani project and a new coal-fired generator as his first priorities.
The local coal industry has other firm backers – Nationals MP George Christensen took out several full page ads in Mackay’s Daily Mercury last week, urging that a “clean” coal-fired power plant be built in north Queensland.
President of the Australian Religious Response to Climate Change, Thea Ormerod, applauded the bishops’ stand and said it “could help shift the mood of the electorate over time”.
She said in the 2016 census, 26.5 per cent of Townsville residents identified as Catholic and 15.2 per cent as Anglican.
“Australia needs such prophetic witness to the importance of protecting our common home over profit-seeking extractive industries,” Ms Ormerod said.
“Adani’s Carmichael mine should never be allowed to go ahead … as a nation, we have the resources to support those communities who are being impacted by our necessary transition away from mining.”
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This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.