It’s been a longtime “character” argument against Bill Shorten: he’ll tell anyone what they want to hear. Shorten’s critics have argued this is especially true when it comes to his comments about Adani’s Carmichael coal mine in Queensland. On Insiders over the weekend, Labor’s employment services spokesman Ed Husic, was unequivocal: “I think we’ve been consistent, Barrie.”  

In a way, that’s true: Bill has consistently tried to be all things to all people on this issue. In light of The Courier Mail trumpeting this morning that his now apparently rigid opposition to the mine shows a willingness to throw thousands of jobs away to save a seat in his home state, let’s take a look at Shorten’s recent proclamations on Adani.

It should happen, but it shouldn’t be paid for by taxpayers …

One point on which Shorten’s views on Adani — which applied for a $900 million loan from the Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility — has not wavered for the last few years, is that it shouldn’t have any taxpayer ­involvement.

“If the Adani coalmine stacks up commercially then we welcome the jobs that it will provide in Northern Queensland,” Shorten said way back in December, 2016

“In terms of accessing taxpayer money through the Northern Australia Infrastructure Fund, we haven’t seen the case made out for that. The deal should stand up under its own commercial merits.”

But not if they fib

On February 2, launching the campaign for former ACTU president Ged Kearney in the byelection for the seat of Batman, Shorten turned his focus to, um, Queensland (which we’re sure had nothing to do with the cluster of anti-Adani protesters behind him):

We have had two years of bad coral bleaching on the Great Barrier Reef, the reef is still there but it is under pressure since the environmental approvals were granted.

Labor is increasingly sceptical and today’s revelation [that Adani had allegedly falsified lab reports when appealing a fine for contaminating wetlands in Queensland]  if true, is incredibly disturbing and if Adani is relying on false information, that mine doesn’t deserve to go ahead.

But we are the party of miners …

Announcing the candidate for the central Queensland seat of Capricornia — coal miner Russell Robertson — on February 21:

But I want to make this point very clear, that when the boosters of the Adani deal say somehow if you’re sceptical about Adani that makes you sceptical about the coal industry, that’s just not right.

I’ve spent my life representing miners. I understand the importance of mining. I’ve spent my life representing resource construction workers. I’ve spent my life standing up for blue collar engineering workers.

… And the party for the environment

In Preston, Victoria, February 22:

We are the party of the environment … We are the party of the reef and the regions and we don’t believe that the progress of this nation is achieved when you throw one group of Australians overboard.

So it definitely shouldn’t go ahead, and we’re revoking their licence …

According to businessman and environmentalist Geoff Cousins, Shorten privately told him in January that Labor would revoke permission for the mine. 

“The key statement was that, ‘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’,” Cousins told the ABC’s 7.30.

Except, I can’t actually revoke it, so it might still go ahead …

“I make no secret that I don’t like it very much” he said on March 2. “But … I also respect the principle of Australian politics. That is, one government enters into contracts, then a future Government can’t just rip them up, to do so would be sovereign risk.”

That thing you like, or don’t like? I also like, or don’t like it.

Also March 2: “I’ve been to Queensland, from the outback to the coast, it’s a beautiful country and it’s worth preserving. But I also travel to mining communities and coal communities. It’s not an either/or. We are a resource nation, a mining nation.”

Peter Fray

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