The advice has emerged after businessman and anti-Adani campaigner Geoff Cousins claimed Labor leader Bill Shorten said he would revoke the mine’s licence if the environmental evidence didn’t stack up.
Mr Cousins’ appeared on ABC’s 7.30 last night and said he now feared Mr Shorten was backing away from taking a public position against the mine.
Today it has also emerged that environmental campaigners paid for Mr Shorten to travel to the Great Barrier Reef to discuss his position during an unpublicised trip.
The Opposition Leader updated his register of interests on Wednesday to reveal the Australian Conservation Foundation paid for his flight to the proposed mine site and a tour of the reef on January 23.
Mr Cousins said Mr Shorten told him: “When we are in government, if the evidence is as compelling as we presently believe it to be regarding the approval of the Adani mine, we will revoke the licence, as allowed in the act. That’s a clear policy.”
The ACF has now released legal advice showing the licence could be revoked if new evidence was uncovered.
Advice from the Environmental Defenders Office (Queensland) dated 31 January, 2018 said the licence could be revoked if the Environment Minister believed a significant matter was not identified during the original assessment, or the approval would not have been granted if the minister had this new information.
The advice suggested a minister wishing to revoke approval of the mine could initiate a review of information about key impacts including:
1. Climate change and its effects on the Great Barrier Reef;
2. Threatened species such as the Black-throated Finch; and
3. Groundwater and groundwater-dependent ecosystems, particularly the Doongmbulla Springs Complex.
Environment Minister Josh Frydenberg confirmed the licence could be revoked under section 145 of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act if new information came to light, or if the proponent “negligently or by direct omission left out critical information”.
“But here’s the critical point, that information is not at hand,” Mr Frydenberg told Sky News.
Now that Mr Cousins has revealed details of their discussions, Mr Shorten is under increased pressure to reveal whether Labor will support Adani’s mine.
The mine is causing problems for Labor in Melbourne as the Greens ramp up their campaign against it, ahead of a crucial by-election on March 17 in the seat of Batman.
While Labor has not confirmed an official policy, Mr Shorten appears to have changed his previous noncommittal stance to say he was “increasingly sceptical” of the project.
A spokesman for Mr Shorten confirmed he sought a meeting with the Australian Conservation Foundation and Mr Cousins to discuss the mine.
“The visit renewed Bill’s convictions on the importance of protecting the reef and the environment,” the spokesman said.
“It’s no secret that Bill is deeply sceptical of the proposed Adani coal mine. He believes if it cannot stack up environmentally or commercially, it should not go ahead. So far it hasn’t, and he doesn’t believe it will.”
But the Prime Minister has seized on claims a Labor government could kill off the mine, accusing Mr Shorten of telling job-hungry miners one thing and “greenies” another.
“Doesn’t that show what a duplicitous person we have in Bill Shorten,” Mr Turnbull told reporters in Canberra on Wednesday.
“This is a guy who goes out to work sites, he goes out to see the CFMEU miners at Oakey and he tells them he’s backing them, he’s right behind them.
“And then he goes to see Geoff Cousins, who is a big greenie, a big environmentalist, and he says to Cousins privately, when no coalminers are listening, when no voters in North Queensland are listening, he says, ‘Don’t you worry, Geoff, when I’m prime minister, I’ll cancel its licence’.”
— With AAP