The proposed Adani Carmichael Coal mine in the Galilee Basin, west of Mackay, has been a fraught issue. Conflated with climate change concerns, the objections are not just from environmentalists, but also people who ‘don’t trust’ Adani, either because of the company’s poor track record or because they’re a foreign company.
Of the 1674 participants in the December survey, 1117 completed the Adani questions. However, this is not a great sample, as only 48 of the participants are currently intending to vote for the Liberal National Coalition. While we work fairly hard to balance the sample, we can’t force people to do it and hundreds of conservative voters opted out. We can infer from this that they may simply not be interested in the issue, or if the indications from the Coalition voters who did answer the Adani questions are a good measure, they believe it to be more of an ideological issue than a substantive one. Are there partisan or ideological lines on this issue? Let’s find out.
Perceptions of Adani
Lets begin with ‘what Adani means to you’, as we do with all our issue short surveys.
The clearly different perceptions of the issue – and thus different conversations – were clearly identifiable, although almost as divergent as we found in the perceptions of drought. We had some literal responses, e.g. ‘a coal mine in Queensland’, but most were emotional responses.
The destruction of the Australian economy and environmental damage and destruction of agricultural growth.68 year old male voter from Perth
Why are we giving a foreign company resources to dig up sacred aboriginal land that they will then destroy and pay no tax on? Idiotic.28 year old female voter from the Blue Mountains area in NSW
Leftists protesting about issues they don’t understand.19 year old male voter from Perth
It is a symbol of the hopeless, pointless, tangle Australia has got itself into over climate change. It’s a disaster.50 year old female voter from Sydney
The broad categories that perceptions of the issue fall into were:
- a mine
- environmental vandalism
- a threat to the Great Barrier Reef
- a threat to ground water/aquifers, particularly affecting farmers
- part of the broader issue of climate change
- Government corruption/misuse of public funds
- A breach of trust between the people and politicians, symbol of leaders not listening
- An unethical company that can’t be trusted
- Foreign investment
- a Green/Left protest issue of little concern
- an ideological/political point of difference
Some respondents perceived it as simultaneously being many of these things…
An environmental wrecker of water aquifers and the Barrier reef. And it will contribute majorly to further Climate Change. Australia will receive few benefits as profits will go offshore and jobs quoted are downright lies. Adani has very poor form in other countries, particularly India, Why any Australian government would want this company in Australia is beyond me.70 year old female voter from Brisbane
Or possibly not really being about any of those things really.
The whole issue screams of racism and xenophobia, as an Indian company, Adani and their Carmichael mine are an easy target, while Rinehart’s Kevin’s Corner mine also under development in the Galilee basin is largely ignored.26 year old female voter from Melbourne
We asked about two specific concerns: environmental damage and job creation. Both are bad news for the Adani Carmichael Mine.
There’s a lot of ‘others’ on job creation – they were about evenly split between saying it’s irrelevant in the face of the other costs, and arguing that the project may create some jobs, but more will be lost from other areas like tourism.
We used the Mushiness Index on this issue, and the vast majority were very firm in their opinion. And most of those opinions were opposed to the project.
The party split is where things get interesting, and we can start to see if this is a partisan issue. That mess of colours doesn’t mean much though, let’s break it down.
Labor and Greens voters are strongly opposed, with literally no supporters amongst Greens voters (who are over-represented in all our surveys). Let’s have a look at the other side.
The majority of Liberal voters support – just (56%). There’s a few ‘others’ there – and we can see definite patterns with regard to the different concerns in the comments. The concerns and opposition in the Liberal voters have much more to do with the concerns about Adani as a foreign company, or one with a poor track record. Those Coalition voters who thought about the issue as being climate change related were strongly supportive of the proposal. Some thought it was dodgy because it was the Queensland Labor government’s deal.
The minor right parties present a more complex picture – with Hanson voters in particular completely spread across the spectrum, Australian Conservatives voters slightly on the support side but still lots of opposers. There aren’t a lot of Katter and Liberal Democrats voters in the sample, but even they still managed to spread themselves out between the oppose and support camps.
So, is the Adani issue an ideological one? It appears that campaigners dragging the issue into climate change’s ideological turf thinking more people will oppose it have done themselves a disservice. The right – and particularly minor right – have significant concerns about the management and ownership of the mine, and feel like they’re being lied to about things like jobs, but linking it to climate change makes it us versus them so conservative voters will stick with their side. On the left it is clearly ideological – many Greens voters offered some comments to illuminate their opposition, and most were… well… judge for yourself.
If this mine goes ahead, the environmental catastrophes it will create in this country and on this planet should see every politician and business leader that allowed it to proceed tried for crimes against humanity at The Hague. I am not being hyperbolic. That is the gravity of the situation that we are facing as a species due to climate change. We cannot afford to pump more coal into the atmosphere, and this mine must be stopped.21 year old male voter from Melbourne
Adani is not the only coal mine of concern but it is the face of our concern about fossil fuels generally and it represents the battle between the just will of ordinary people and the self-serving collusion of governments and big corporates.55 year old female voter from Sydney
If the Adani mine goes ahead, I think it will start a very dangerous precedent in our country. Historically Australia hasn’t had much political unrest or sabotage. But this mine may open the doors to such political action.32 year old male voter from Perth
They’re a little panicked? Alarmed? There were multiple references to civil disobedience and protest, danger and disbelief. There’s nothing wrong with any of these opinions, but this is the power of partisan cues – the language from The Greens is tending towards alarmed, so their supporters reflect that back. Labor voters, and those currently leaning Green who voted Labor in 2016, were a bit more calm on balance – more disgust than alarm – but some Labor voters were typing at us in all caps too, mainly those who saw it as a climate change issue.
Influence on votes
Ok, so the majority are concerned, oppose the Carmichael Mine project, they’ve made up their mind. Does the issue factor into their vote? Not as much as you might expect given how strong the concern numbers are.
All those single issue voters are Labor voters (surprise!). But…
If Labor do not oppose it and commit that that position, I will not vote for them.42 year old female voter from Melbourne
By contrast, a number of Greens and Labor voters said it wouldn’t have that much influence on their vote because it was only one of a number of things as part of their broader concern about climate change. It is clear that Labor could get some votes back off the Greens by opposing it, but whether they could get votes off the right with this issue is debatable. Certainly, if it is linked to climate change at all, then no.