What does a 'critical infrastructure project' mean?
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Dear Michael

I am writing in relation to Adani's Carmichael Coal project and the recent announcement by the Minister for Mines to prescribe it as a 'critical infrastructure project'.  

I know many locals have concerns in relation to the Adani project and I appreciate the opportunity to clarify what this designation means and what the Palaszczuk Government is doing in relation to mining, the Great Barrier Reef and lowering Queensland's carbon emissions.

Palaszczuk Government’s position on the Adani Project

No government funding will be given to the Adani Project and no dredging will take place at Abbot Point until Adani demonstrates financial closure.

Project status

The Carmichael Coal Mine and Rail Project and the North Galilee Basin Rail Project were declared “prescribed projects” by the LNP Government on 3 July 2014 and 22 September 2014, respectively. On 7 October 2016, the Adani Combined Project (comprised of the Carmichael Coal mine and Rail Project, North Galilee Basin Rail Project and North Galilee Water Scheme) was declared a prescribed project and critical infrastructure project.

Declaring a project a prescribed project enables the Coordinator-General, if necessary, to intervene in the approvals process. A Coordinator-General’s decision on a prescribed project is not appealable under the relevant Act or law under which the decision was made. To date, the prescribed project powers have not been used by the Coordinator-General. Under a critical infrastructure project, some judicial review rights are also precluded for decisions made by the Coordinator-General. However, applications can still be made for judicial review by the Supreme Court under its inherent jurisdiction.

The Adani project has been subject to comprehensive public consultation and assessment under the EIS process, the environmental authority and mining lease process and the federal assessment under the Environment Protection Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (Cth).

The Adani project is currently subject to five legal actions in state and federal courts. The existing court actions are not affected by the declaration of a prescribed project and critical infrastructure project.

The Great Barrier Reef

I can assure you the Palaszczuk Government remains committed to protecting the Great Barrier Reef for the future of our environment and for the future of Queensland tourism.

We’re taking a balanced approach to generating jobs and economic development and protecting the environment. These are the commitments we gave to the people of Queensland.

We can and will do many things to minimise the potential impact of this and other coal projects on the Great Barrier Reef. We have limited port expansion to four major existing port locations, with the best, deepest channels. We use sophisticated technology to track every ship that travels through the Great Barrier Reef.

The Palaszczuk Government has kept every promise we made to protect and manage the Great Barrier Reef and we will continue to work towards addressing the issues facing the Great Barrier Reef. So far the Government has:
  • Protected the Great Barrier Reef and the Caley Valley wetlands by not allowing dredge spoil to be dumped on the wetlands or in the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area (as the former LNP government proposed to do).
  • Passed new ports legislation to limit port expansion and prohibit at-sea dumping of dredge spoil in the World Heritage Area and protected the Fitzroy River Delta from future port development.
  • Created three net-free fishing zones established in Cairns, Mackay and Rockhampton.
We made an election commitment to provide an additional $100 million to reduce damage to the Great Barrier Reef.  The Palaszczuk Government has constituted the Great Barrier Reef Water Science Taskforce, led by the Queensland Chief Scientist - so that scientists, not politicians, can decide where funding should go.

Following the recommendations of the Great Barrier Reef Science Taskforce, the Queensland Government has committed to:
  • A ban on sea dumping of capital dredge spoil within the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area.
  • Allocating the additional $100 million over five years towards water quality initiatives, scientific research and helping businesses transition to better environmental practices in the primary production and fishing industries.
  • Implementing vegetation protection laws in consultation with landowners to minimise damaging run-off to the Great Barrier Reef. You will note that these laws were not passed in Parliament as they did not have the support of the LNP Opposition or the independents. I can assure you that the Palaszczuk Government remains committed to introducing these laws and will take them to the next election.
  • Reinstating world-class coastal planning laws.
These actions have been recognised by the World Heritage Committee of the United Nations Environmental, Scientific and Cultural Organisation, in its unanimous decision not to list the Great Barrier Reef as a ‘world heritage site in danger.’

In addition, I reiterate that the Palaszczuk Government will not use taxpayer funds for the Adani project and will ensure that no dredging proceeds at Abbot Point until Adani demonstrates financial closure.

Climate change

I understand why many people are concerned about how coal development will affect the Great Barrier Reef by increasing carbon pollution, leading to climate change that will impact on the Great Barrier Reef. We know that, long term, the biggest threat to the Great Barrier Reef is ocean warming and acidification caused by climate change. And I know that’s why many people are opposed to the Adani mine.

The world is increasingly acting to reduce carbon pollution and transition to clean energy sources, but there will continue to be demand for Queensland’s high-quality thermal coal as this transition takes place.

Not supplying Queensland coal to overseas markets would not reduce global carbon emissions. Under the global agreement for addressing climate change, coal usage will be included in each country’s own carbon emission plans - that is, countries using Queensland coal will need to factor this into their emission plans.

We cannot control demand for coal, but we can take steps to control our emissions. Australians remain some of the worst emitters in the world due to our high levels of electricity consumption, private car usage and high levels of vegetation clearing.

Ultimately, responsibility for driving down Australia’s carbon pollution rests with the Federal Government - but the Palaszczuk Government is committed to doing our fair share by reducing the carbon pollution we generate here in Queensland by: Conclusion

While we cannot control international demand for coal, the Palaszczuk Government recognises our obligation to reduce fossil fuel consumption domestically.

I appreciate this decision will come as a disappointment for the many Queenslanders who believe we should not mine new coal. But I also know there are a great many Queenslanders, especially in regional communities, who are relying on the jobs and business opportunities that projects like this create.

If I can be of any assistance with any state government matter, please don’t hesitate to contact me.

Yours sincerely

Jackie Trad
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