Former Australian test captains say opposition to mine in Australia could affect sporting ties with India, in letter directly appealing to Adani boss
Australian cricketing greats Ian and Greg Chappell have signed an open letter calling on Indian billionaire Gautam Adani to abandon his company’s proposed Queensland coalmine.
The Chappells, well-known through their sporting exploits in India where the Australian team is currently playing, joined 90 prominent Australians in the letter, which will be delivered to Adani’s head office on Thursday.
Signatories include former Labor federal environment minister Peter Garrett; authors Richard Flanagan, Tim Winton and Helen Garner; Telstra chair John Mullen; investment banker Mark Burrows; and former Australian of the Year, Prof Fiona Stanley.
The letter will be hand-delivered by Geoff Cousins, the businessman, environmental activist and former adviser to then Australian prime minister John Howard, who hopes to appeal to the Adani family’s concern for their business reputation.
The move was ridiculed by federal government MP George Christensen, who railed against the signatories as “elitist wankers” trying to wipe out job opportunities for struggling regional Queenslanders.
Christensen said in a statement: “Styling themselves as ‘prominent Australians’, these elitist wankers include investment bankers, CEOs of major corporations such as Telstra, pretentious literati, professional activists and has-been celebrities.
“I’d love for just one of them to come down to the Larrikin Hotel in Bowen and explain to the locals there who have been suffering from a stalled economy for years on end, why they think the jobs from the Carmichael Mine and Abbot Point coal port expansion should not be created.”
Ian Chappell told the ABC that opposition to the mine in Australia could affect sporting ties with India.
“Cricket has a bit to do with the feeling between India and Australia,” he said. “The thought that this [mine] could affect the relationship, hopefully that’ll get through.”
Cousins is leading an “alternate delegation” to India, where the Queensland premier, Annastacia Palaszczuk, and six regional Queensland mayors are on a trade mission to build support for Adani’s mine.
“The Queensland premier and mayors are on a dangerous junket to promote a damaging project. We are in India to tell Adani that Australians do not want this coalmine and will continue to fight it tooth and nail,” Cousins said. “We would welcome Adani’s investment in solar instead.”
Cousins told the ABC that “the Adani family, one can see from all their published material, is very proud of their reputation.”
“What often makes the coin turn is [if] the company can see the project will have such a bad influence on their reputation.”
His delegation includes a Great Barrier Reef tourism operator, a grazier near Adani’s mine site and an Australian Marine Conservation Society campaigner, who all warn of the damaging impacts of what would be one of the world’s largest coal projects.
The AMCS campaigner Imogen Zethoven said the mine would put the reef in peril in coming decades, as it suffers another mass bleaching event after its worst-ever bleaching in 2016 which killed nearly a quarter of its coral.
One of Australia’s foremost experts on the reef, Terry Hughes, has also called for the scrapping of the Adani mine, saying it could potentially compound risks to the reef in its weakened state.
Palaszczuk said last month the meeting in India with the mining company would be “critical ahead of Adani making its final investment decision in April”.
She said the mine proposal was closely scrutinised and “offered the potential for thousands of new jobs across regional Queensland”.
Palaszczuk said her government had remained true to its 2015 election commitment to protect the reef and sensitive wetlands from dredging as part Adani’s planned port expansion.
It had also delivered on its promise not to use taxpayer funds to subsidise Adani’s infrastructure.
However, the state government holds veto power over Adani’s application for a $1b federal government loan to build a railway to link the mine to its port hundreds of kilometres away.
The Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility says it “will not proceed with making an investment decision, and further consideration of an investment proposal will cease if at any time the relevant state or territory government provides written notification that financial assistance should not be provided to the project”.
Cousins said that “polls show the majority of Australians are appalled that Adani [would get] a $1bn handout of public money to finance a project banks won’t touch”.
The rail company Aurizon has lodged a rival bid for NAIF funding for a railway line to the Galilee basin, it was reported on Thursday.
Aurizon’s proposal rail line would cost up to $1b less than Adani’s, the Courier-Mail reported.