Bob Brown, the face of the campaign to block the Franklin River dam addresses a protest rally. In 1983, the High Court overturned a Tasmanian government decision to build the dam.
Bob Brown, the face of the campaign to block the Franklin River dam addresses a protest rally. In 1983, the High Court overturned a Tasmanian government decision to build the dam. Andrew De La Rue

A tale of coal, democracy, and local business with Bob Brown

LOVE him or hate him, former Australian Greens leader and environmental powerhouse Dr Bob Brown is on his way to Central Queensland with the Stop Adani convoy.

Ahead of his visit, Dr Brown called to make known his thoughts on the future of Central Queensland.

Over the course of the conversation, his anti-coal sentiment not only reflected a fear of global warming and its consequences but also his concerns about its effect on small business and tourism in regional Australia.

"The Great Barrier Reef has 60,000 jobs dependent on it, and a lot of local businesses are very, very alarmed about the future and the increasing death rate of the reef," he said.

"(I was) speaking to people at Airlie Beach, just a fortnight ago.

"There is alarm amongst tourism operators about the increase of burning coal, an industry of which most of the profits flow out of the country anyway.

"That's up against local businesses which do keep their money and jobs going locally."

He singled out Adani's Carmichael mine as a watershed moment for a global acceptance of the continuation of coal burning.

"Opening up the Galilee Basin is the litmus test for burning more coal world wide," Dr Brown said.

"It will directly lead to six more mega coal mines in an age where the impact of climate change is in front of everybody.

"Just look at the recent Townsville floods, bush fires in Tasmania in April for goodness sake, and the drought affecting the Murray Darling system, they were all made worse by burning coal.

"We have put more greenhouse gases into the atmosphere last year than any other year in human history. It's just got to be turned around.

"Given those circumstances, Adani is irresponsible to the economy, future of jobs as well as the environment."


Bob Brown is the keynote speaker for the 18th annual Big Scrub Rainforest Day.
COAL FIGHT: Former Greens leader and founder of the Bob Brown Foundation, Dr Bob Brown.

According to Dr Brown, he would be happy to let democracy play its course over the Adani saga and the convoy's intention was to make it known to people that a decision over Adani should be in their hands.

"I very well remember (former Queensland premier) Joh Bjelke-Petersen coming down to Tasmania to tell us we should build a dam, and that was part of the democratic process," he said.

"I have no doubt Adani has support in Central Queensland, but I believe there is a strong contingent of people in Central Queensland who don't want Adani.

"Despite what some of our opponents may say, (the convoy) will be peaceful, lawful and non-violent, it is a celebration of democracy.

"We are reminding people that they have a vote, and those who want the mine can vote for it and those who don't can vote against it.

"Likewise, those who want the reef can vote for it, and those who are prepared to see this on-rush of coral bleaching can vote for that.

"They're not protesting, they will be celebrating the fact we don't have Adani and we don't want it."


Supplied photo made available, Sunday, Jan. 1, 2012, of anti-dam protesters in south-west Tasmania, opposing the planned construction of the Franklin River dam, 1982. This photograph is published to coincide with the release of the 1982 Cabinet records of the Fraser Government and 1983 Cabinet records of the Hawke Government. (AAP Image/National Archives of Australia) NO ARCHIVING, EDITORIAL USE ONLY
Anti-dam protesters in south-west Tasmania, opposing the planned construction of the Franklin River dam, 1982. NATIONAL ARCHIVES OF AUSTRALIA

He also expressed his concern over the democratic process regarding the current election campaign.

"(Locals he has talked to) also feel a little coerced by the stridency of the pro-Adani front up there, which includes Ms Landry (Capricornia MP), no doubt," he said.

"I saw it all in the Franklin Dam campaign from very similar people, and 30 years on, it's hard to find any Tasmanian who wants a dam built now.

"There is a lot of misgivings about Adani, and frankly the lies that are being told about jobs are just beneath the surface.

"Talking to the locals, I was very surprised by the feeling towards the people who are coming up to peacefully express their opinion."

Recent approval processes for the mine including the groundwater dependent ecosystem management plan, rang alarm bells for Dr Brown who is no stranger to federal politics.

"In politics, everything is appearances and the hectoring by the far right senators of the Environment Minister was a very bad look," he said.

"People have the right to believe that duress was placed on the Minister, if not to make the decision she did, but to bring forward the timetable for releasing that decision.

"Where are the statements from those senators on global warming? Where are their abatement plans for the huge impact on the planet that Adani and associated mines in the Galilee Basin will have?

"There is none. It's as if it doesn't matter."

Dr Brown spoke of a global trend, even from miners, to move away from or even take action against burning coal.

"The way the world is moving, we are seeing legal action being taken against greenhouse gas emitters, and we're starting to see class actions against it," he said.

"This has been one of the reasons why Adani has had such trouble getting finance.

"Burning coal is going to continue for some time, but those who are involved in it are taking big risks.

"We are already seeing companies like Glencore move away from coal mining operations.

"They can see the writing is on the wall for coal.

"There is always somebody that will gain from it, and stand to make money out of it but the wider impact on the region is a negative.

"Whether you argue for the economy, the environment or employment, Adani is a loser."