Federal Resources Minister Matt Canavan has confirmed he would respect Labor’s election promise to veto the loan if the party was returned to government as expected.
“The Queensland Government can veto, they’re in their rights to do it,” Mr Canavan told Insiders on Sunday.
“(But) if they seek to destroy the thousands of jobs that will be created, or the hundreds of jobs that have already been created, that will be hung around their necks and it will be a great millstone for any Labor Party going into a future election in regional Queensland.”
Unlike Labor, the Liberal National Party supported the loan and Mr Canavan said he did not accept there was strong sentiment against Adani’s mine saying the results in the election did not support this.
“In regional Queensland, the Labor Party vote is less than 30 per cent, the Greens vote is almost non-existent,” he said.
“The reality is in regional Queensland, this mine is greatly supported,” he said.
Mr Canavan pointed to the success of independent Margaret Strelow in the seat of Rockhampton. The Rockhampton Mayor decided to stand as an independent after missing out on Labor preselection and publicly declared her support for the loan.
But the issue may have gained traction in the south-east of the state. The Greens polled well in inner Brisbane areas and some believe sentiment against the mine, and in particular the loan, helped to deliver this result.
Labor’s position on Adani’s loan was also expected to cost them seats in Townsville-based electorates but the party looks likely to hold Mundingburra and Thuringowa. However, the seat of Townsville is on a knife-edge and the LNP is leading.
Anti-Adani protesters disrupted the campaign including on election day, swamping Opposition Leader Tim Nicholls as he arrived at a Brisbane church to cast his election vote and later at a polling booth at Ascot State School.
Exit polls commissioned by GetUp found about 70 per cent of those surveyed in key seats were against the loan.
Adani wants the loan to help pay for a rail line to transport coal from its proposed Carmichael mine to Abbot Point port for shipping overseas.
But Adani’s project has been hugely controversial with many Australians worried about the potential impact on the Great Barrier Reef and the granting of an unlimited water licence. There are also concerns about the mine’s future financial viability given action on climate change is reducing demand for coal.
The issue has divided Queenslanders with those in regional areas around the mine welcoming the jobs the project will create.
But even among those who support the mine, there is unease about the granting of the loan to the Indian company.
Ahead of the vote on Saturday, One Nation leader Pauline Hanson said her party would not work with any of the major parties to form government if they supported the loan.
Exit polling in key electorates shows a clear majority of voters want the next Qld gov to block Adani’s billion-dollar loan. Including:
MPs and candidates take heed: Queenslanders do not want Mr Adani getting his $1B bailout. #qldvotes
— GetUp! (@GetUp) November 25, 2017
While Labor supports the mine and has signed an agreement with Adani that allows it to delay making royalty payments, it has promised not to put any taxpayer’s money towards the project.
In the first week of the campaign, Labor Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said Labor would veto the $1 billion loan being considered by the Northern Australian Infrastructure Facility because of a possible conflict of interest as her partner Shaun Drabsch worked on the loan application. However, The Australian later reported that the decision had been made much earlier, on May 26.
Under the NAIF rules, states need to give approval for the loan so if Labor does veto it, the loan will not go ahead.
Adani would have to find another way to finance its $16 billion project with the ABC reporting it may be close to a deal with a Chinese company.
If true, this could bring its own problems as the agreement may involve the use of Chinese labour, which would come at the cost of Aussie jobs — one of the biggest reasons politicians and voters support the project.