Gautam Adani on Sky News (Image: Sky News)

Indian multi-billionaire Gautam Adani flew into Townsville via Jakarta on Monday and out again on Tuesday in his personal jet.

Obviously the visit has to do with his contentious coal mine in the Galilee Basin in central Queensland and just as obviously he did not want Australians to know he was here.

News of Adani’s trip broke at 12am Wednesday morning in the Murdoch press including Brisbane’s Courier-Mail and the Townsville Bulletin (midnight is the classic time for ending a news embargo). Reporter Madura McCormack’s reports say nothing about the reason for the lightning trip aside from “internal meetings”.

Strangely the ABC, which so often follows up stories in the Murdoch media, has run nothing on this one.

After all, Adani’s mine was one of the big issues in both the last Queensland and federal elections. The Stop Adani Convoy, which went to Queensland during the federal election campaign, was a major reason for changing votes across the country. The government was so sensitive about the issue that Prime Minister Scott Morrison was told that the word Adani was poison and never mentioned the mine during his campaign.

In May, just after Morrison won the election, Queensland Premier Anastasia Palaszczuk announced she had “had a gutful” of the issue of the Adani mine and, within a month, had ticked off on management plans for the mine to proceed.

Incredibly, for a man so media-shy in Australia, Adani paid for Sky News presenter Peta Credlin to fly to India just a fortnight ago. He got what he paid for: a classic puff piece with no difficult questions and no new information.

So why the secrecy in Townsville yesterday? At the very least, having got the mine go-ahead, Adani’s advisers are hoping that the contention will dissipate if he starves it of oxygen. But some questions linger in the air.

For example, where now are the guarantees of thousands of jobs for locals promised by Adani? Will he stop the mine if it is found to be killing the Doongmabulla Springs oases as independent scientists predict? Or if the endangered black-throated finch is found to be pushed to extinction? Or if the Wangan and Jagalingou Family Council wins it’s current court action?

The politicians’ commitments that Adani will get no public money begs another question: why the secrecy of negotiations over royalties?

Will Adani pay for all the agreed and compulsory land acquisitions needed for his 200 kilometre rail link, now being undertaken by the Palaszczuk government? And what of that $3 billion that Adani proposes to transfer from Queensland profits into a family trust in the Cayman Islands?

Informed journalists getting within cooee of Gautam Adani might also have asked how he is going on the home front: with evictions of poorer Indians from both his latest open-cut coal mining venture in central India’s Hasdeo Arand forests and for the proposed thermal power station near the border with Bangladesh. Regarding the latter, how come his friend, PM Narendra Modi, has allowed the power station site to become a “special economic zone” with all the accompanying tax breaks? Why did the displaced citizens not get the same breaks before Adani forced them out?

There is as much to be asked about his secret visit to Australia this week, but if his success in avoiding the media is reassurance that the issue is fizzling, I would advise the great man to think again.

Adani’s opening of the Galilee Basin coal load is clawing at the conscience of many folk who can’t afford Lear jets. This is an age of global climate emergency caused in large measure by burning coal, with half Queensland drought stricken and receiving large Australian taxpayer support, and an estimated 10,000 jobs on the Great Barrier Reef in jeopardy due to coral death. Insurance policies are going up to help pay the $1 billion cost of this year’s Townsville flood, and last year was both the hottest and most greenhouse-gas polluting year in Australia’s history, 

When the Galilee coal is burnt, wherever that is, it will more than double the current record greenhouse gas emissions from Australia. Who is culpable for that?

In recent weeks thousands of people worried by inaction on the climate emergency and by the Adani mine have rallied in Brisbane, Melbourne and Canberra and other Australian cities.

Secret visits or not, the issue of Adani’s coal mine is far from going away.

Bob Brown is the former leader of the Greens and led the Stop Adani Convoy during the 2019 federal election.

Should Adani front up to the media? Write to [email protected] with your full name and let us know your thoughts.

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey