A $5 billion slush fund. Our new Resources and Energy Minister, Josh Frydenberg, has made an early entry into the dud decision stakes of 2015 (and probably 2016 and 2017 if he gets his way) for telling The Australian Financial Review this week that the $5 billion northern Australia infrastructure will help fund new coal mining projects, such as the multibillion-dollar Adani Carmichael mine in central Queensland. Of course he wants state governments (Queensland in this case) to help.

This is a very odd attitude for a supposedly free enterprise, market-leaning government and new Prime Minister. Some 14 Australian and global banks have signalled they are not interested in funding this project for various reason — the weak outlook for coal and climate change being two of the most obvious. That is a very clear market signal. And we have yet to see any sign of finance from Indian banks (they should really finance the lot if they want the coal, so long as all the environmental rules are followed). And that includes infrastructure — like BHP has funded rail lines in central Queensland. Of course, Frydenberg is (as the Abbott government did) ignoring evidence from Adani’s own consultant that the “10,000 jobs” claim is a crock of rubbish — only some 1400 jobs at most will be created by the mine. And like so many in the Abbott government, Frydenberg is ignoring what is happening among big global investors and their attitude to coal. This week the Financial Times reported that investors managing US$2.6 trillion of global investments had gone right off coal and were dumping existing investments. — Glenn Dyer

Coal is on the nose, even in India. The bottom line that no one associated with the project, especially the minister or the Queensland government, can explain is: why haven’t they asked Adani why they can’t build this mine at home? After all, India has one of the largest coal reserves in the world — more than 293 billion tonnes as of a 2012 estimate. According to a statement on Adani’s own website, some 87% of that reserve is non-coking coal (not suitable for the steel industry), but thermal coal, the stuff it wants to mine in central Queensland. India, in fact, has the fourth-largest coal reserves in the world, two spots ahead of Australia. India should also have a lower cost base, but it doesn’t. Geography, cultural and political reasons, dumb company managements and weak governments have sterilised much of India’s reserves. Rampant greed and corruption at the highest levels caused previous coal licences to be abandoned. Rather than try to lower those restrictions, the Indian government encourages companies like Adani to come to Australia, where it is supposed to be easier to develop a mine and export the coal back to India, but not at current prices without any government help. So up steps Frydenberg, offering Australian taxpayer money for subsidising to this dodgy scheme. — Glenn Dyer

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Febrile, volatile, very shaky. No matter what adjective you draw out from the hat to describe them, sharemarkets, indeed all financial markets, are wobbly, especially since the Fed’s decision to sit on its hands nearly a week ago. Fears about China continue (sort of supporting the Fed’s non-decision), and commodity prices continue to slide (adding to the Fed fears about the lack of inflation). Fed chair Janet Yellen will make her first public appearance since the post-meeting press conference a week ago at 7pm Thursday, US time (around 5am Friday morning), meaning it will be a tremulous start to the day for Australian and Asian markets, again. Swoon-time anyone? Yellen will be speaking on the gripping subject of “Inflation Dynamics and Monetary Policy“, which will be taken as reflecting current Fed thinking. The Fed has an inflation target of 2% — despite continuing fears inside and outside the central bank about cost pressures and asset bubbles. The Fed now believes that won’t happen until 2018 — three months ago it was 2017. So what Yellen says about that in her speech and the influence of offshore factors, such as the sluggish Chinese economy and pressures in emerging markets (recessions in Brazil and Russia, for example) and low commodity prices, will be “new” news for markets on Friday and Friday night. Strap yourselves in. — Glenn Dyer

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Peter Fray
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