Activist groups GetUp and Greenpeace have taken aim at the proposed Galilee Basin mega coal mine projects by targeting its potential international investors.
The groups, in conjunction with BankTrack, have taken out a full page newspaper advertisement in the Asian edition of the Financial Times, alerting interested backers to what they say are “key investment risks”.
But in a rare show of accord, both the state and federal governments have condemned the campaign, with Treasurer Wayne Swan and Deputy Premier Jeff Seeney accusing the organisations of “obnoxious behaviour” and of taking a narrow view.
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The advertisement, titled “Investor Alert”, is headed “will you sink your profits on the Great Barrier Reef?” and specifically mentions the $6.4 billion Alpha Coal project, which is partly owned by the Indian investment conglomerate, GVK, and Gina Rinehart.
It goes on to warn of “major public controversy” in relation to “political interference” in the state government’s approval process and advises of growing public concern regarding the project and its associated infrastructure, which it says will likely result in “lengthy delays and significant cost blow outs”.
GetUp campaigns director Sam McLean said the advertisement, which cost “tens of thousands of dollars” and was funded through donations, was just one stage of the campaign.
“We’ve planned an initial ad this week and we’ll keep campaigning on the issue for as long as these projects are proposed,” he said.
Mr McLean said he believed the impact of the advertisements “could be huge” and the Financial Times was a deliberate choice because of its reach.
“We know that reading this newspaper is part of a daily routine for the analysts of major Asia investment companies,” he said.
“We know that the story that they (investors and analysts) have been getting is very one-sided, that they have been told that there are easy projects, they have government approval, they have public support, that it is going to be a quick and easy process, but in fact there are huge numbers of risks with these projects that investors haven’t been told about.”
The most concerning risk to GetUp and other like-minded organisations, Mr McLean said, was the impact to the Great Barrier Reef.
But Mr Swan said while the federal government “had to pull … the Queensland government in line”, he believed the advertisement was “deplorable”.
“They should be condemned and I condemn them in the strongest possible way,” Mr Swan told reporters in Brisbane.
Despite a political stoush between the federal and state governments over the approval process for the Alpha mine, Mr Seeney said he backed Mr Swan’s comments.
“I think it could be damaging for the Queensland economy,” he said.
“I think anyone who takes a sensible look at the resources industry in Queensland can very quickly understand that the Queensland economy needs the resource sector.”
The Queensland Resources Council was even stronger in their criticism of the advertisement, with chief executive Michael Roche labelling the Greenpeace and GetUp campaigns “increasingly shrill and irrational” in a statement.
“GVK and other Indian companies are looking to Australian coal resources to improve the quality of life for millions of their people, which is possible only through access to affordable and plentiful supplies of electricity,” he said.
“For a country like India, coal is the energy source that ticks these boxes.
“I congratulate GVK Hancock on their commitment and vision and their thoroughness in preparation of their environmental impact statement for the mine and rail project, which goes to about 10,000 pages.
“With the stringent conditions placed on environmental management of the project, it can only be a win for both Queenslanders and the people of India.”
However, Mr McLean said campaign organisers would continue to target the mine where it hurt the most – investment.
“We are in discussion with some potential investors, but we can’t discuss [the details],” he said.
“We just think it is really important that they know the risks.”