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Adani arrest draws attention to Australia's global harm

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Journalist Hugo Clement was arrested for trespassing while trying to film an anti-Adani protest in Queensland (Screenshot via YouTube)

The arrest of a French journalist has focused a spotlight on Australia's contributions to global warming, writes Dr David Shearman.

THE ARREST of Hugo Clément has served the international community interest to recognise the harm being caused to them by Australian policy. This harm is well recognised by our island neighbours but they are inconsequential to the Australian Government. More important are the views of countries which accept their share of the climate change burden and the tourists from Europe and other major countries who may well view Mr Hugo’s documentaries when considering holidays in Queensland.

International interest is growing following an article in the London Times on 26 May titled ‘Australia plans coalfield the size of Britain in climate change U-turn’. This was then taken up in other northern hemisphere media. The Times used a telling map showing the size of the Galilee Basin compared to the UK, suggesting the entire Basin will be one mine — perhaps it will, anything can happen in Queensland

Let us be clear: as Australian domestic and export emissions head to 14-17 per cent of world emissions, we have a responsibility for many deaths from heatwaves, floods, storms and drought. Doctors regard Adani as a health issue and so will every other country.

Clearly, if the world is to avoid catastrophic global warming, all nations will need to share action and the recalcitrant ones will be targeted by those doing their humanitarian duty.

On being arrested, Clément said:

“That is very strange. It's like they have something to hide, right? Because if you arrest a journalist and then you say to the journalist that he has to keep away from Adani's sites, what's happening on these sites?”

He may well ask the Queensland and Federal Governments what is happening. The approval processes allowing this mine are likely to become an educative international example of how not to manage the environmental, health, economic and industry needs of resource development.

In its latest submission on Adani to the Queensland Government, Doctors for the Environment Australia summarised a litany of errors and evasions over many years which may impact the sustainability of the region, including inadequate water use assessments, the use of water from the Great Artesian Basin, clearance of native vegetation, failure to consider human health and climate change impacts and damage to the Great Barrier Reef which we documented in 2011 and in many subsequent submissions.

The position and actions of the Adani company have been so inappropriate in providing the facts that they have become an embarrassment to the corporate sector. Nevertheless, Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk adopted the inappropriate position of proponent by giving the hurry-up to her departments to reach a decision to proceed.

Adani is but one of a panoply of poor resource management decisions in Queensland which have resulted in the resurgence of miner’s black lung disease, poor monitoring of air quality in mines and accidents and fatalities to miners.

A Land Court judgement in 2017 on the Acland New Hope coal mine condemned the performance of the company and the Environmental Authority for the suffering of local communities from noise, dust and water usage from their farming land. This mine is one of five operational and six proposed mines in the Bowen Basin region.

But of most interest to Hugo Clément would be that the 6,000 gas mines in the same region will be tripled to supply the burgeoning export endeavours.

Hydraulic fracturing was banned in France in 2011 on the basis of the precautionary principle and its possible harm to farming land — a wise decision in view of current evidence on health impacts. Health effects are increasingly reported for the gas fields of the U.S. which are reflected in limited Australian studies.

Queensland is noted for digging black holes. In 2009, Queensland's Environmental Protection Agency became a part of the Government's larger Department of Environment and Resource Management (also a black hole) for the hundreds of submissions made by scientists, environmentalists and health workers in attempts to improve the system; transparency and accountability are consumed in its cosmic secrets.

The website of the Department of Natural Resources, Mines and Energy recently said:

In 2018, the Queensland Government investigated opportunities to improve the efficiency and timeliness of resources approval processes. The aim of this was to reduce duplicate processes and deliver efficient services. We also wanted to ensure that private investors and other resource stakeholders were finding it easy to do business in Queensland.

As yet, no report is available so the many suggestions made by eminent doctors still languish in the black hole.

It was fortunate that Hugo Clément was arrested; his investigations will be stimulated to find out more. If he reads this sad little article, he may come to the conclusion that successive Queensland Governments and their elected State and Federal representatives lack the ability and intelligence to provide a sustainable future for rural communities. And he will be correct, particularly when he finds Queenslanders and their technical and academic resources are some of the best in the world.

Nous esperons que malgre son arrestation, Monsieur Clément a passé de bon sejour en Australie.

Dr David Shearman is a founder of Doctors for the Environment Australia and Emeritus Professor of Medicine at Adelaide University.

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