Key Queensland crossbencher Rob Katter says the state’s outback economy is “dying” and the stalled Carmichael mega-mine is the best way to revive it.
The Mount Isa MP, who along with his Katter’s Australian Party colleague Shane Knuth and a handful of other crossbenchers hold the balance of power in state parliament, says a feeling of “despair” would deepen in places like Townsville if the $21 billion mine project is held up.
“I’m not saying it’s all perfect and kosher with the environment, but it’s the best solution we’ve got and we’re dying out there,” Mr Katter told ABC Radio on Wednesday.
“I just wish these people would care a little bit more about human lives than they do about their ideologies.”
Mr Katter said high youth unemployment was an ongoing problem in his electorate and was a sign of the weakening economic situation.
“There needs to be a balance of the ledger; I don’t think Adani and Glencore and all these mining companies are the best in the world, but we still need them to invest somewhere,” he said.
His comments come as Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk faces intense pressure over a proposed deal to give Adani a “royalties holiday”, which is heavily opposed by Labor’s dominant Left faction.
The issue escalated on Tuesday when Ms Palaszczuk was forced to dodge questions over her leadership in state parliament.
It’s understood Ms Palaszczuk struck the deal at a meeting with Gautam Adani in India in March, which would have seen the company pay as little as $2 million in royalties annually in the first seven years of the mine’s operation.
It would cost Queensland taxpayers up to $320 million.
The Premier has since faced a cabinet revolt over the issue, with a number of ministers, led by the Deputy Premier Jackie Trad, saying the deal contravened a pre-election promise not to subsidise the project.
Cabinet’s delay in making a decision on the proposal on Monday afternoon was slammed by the federal government, the LNP state opposition, regional mayors and Adani itself.
But the mining giant has reportedly confirmed the huge mine is viable even without the royalties relief. It’s the $2 billion rail project, which is intended to be open for use by future mine operators in the region, that would trouble the balance sheet.
“This means we are being required to solely bear the significant up front costs of expanding the line capacity,” an Adani spokesperson told The Courier-Mail.
The company has deferred Monday’s board meeting set down to make their final investment decision, with a spokesman saying they’re willing to wait but not indefinitely.