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Wednesday, 15 February 2017
Page: 979

Adani Group

Senator DI NATALE (VictoriaLeader of the Australian Greens) (14:19): My question is to the Minister for Resources and Northern Australia, Minister Canavan, our new best friend from the Nationals. I refer to reports today that Adani, the huge Indian multinational company that plans to build Australia's biggest coal mine, have been involved in corruption, tax fraud, labour exploitation, money laundering and the poisoning of rivers and coastlines. Minister, what due diligence have you done to assure the Australian community that these abuses will not be repeated here in Australia by the Adani Group?

Senator CANAVAN (QueenslandMinister for Resources and Northern Australia) (14:20): I thank Senator Di Natale for his question. I have seen those reports this morning; I have not read every word but have looked through them. From my interpretation of them and also from the advice I have received from my department, there is nothing new in these reports this morning. Many of the issues raised by them are to do with allegations that are not proven at this stage, and others are well known and have been well known to Australian regulators now for the past few years.

I think we have very robust environmental and approval standards in this country. We have a proud record of environmental protection. We have an excellent and pristine environment in many parts of our country that we all want to protect. This project has been through those approval processes at the Queensland government level and has been through those processes at the federal government level. Different political parties, as governments, have looked at these projects and accepted and approved them with very stringent conditions—hundreds of conditions, with more than 30 here at the federal level. We have done the due diligence on these projects, we have looked at those issues that have been brought forward and we have concluded that we are very confident that our laws will be upheld, that our laws are appropriately designed and that our environment will be protected.

We must be clear. If Senator Di Natale is alleging that we have not done that due diligence properly through those approval processes, it is placing a slur on those public servants and independent regulators who have looked at them themselves and concluded these things. That has been the advice to government; that we can approve these projects, and that we can do so in a way that protects the environment and creates lots of economic opportunity and jobs for all Australians. I am confident that will happen and I hope this project does proceed.

The PRESIDENT: Senator Di Natale, a supplementary question.

Senator DI NATALE (VictoriaLeader of the Australian Greens) (14:22): Given that the minister has indicated that he is prepared to give a billion dollars of the public's money to this company, what assurances has he received that this money will not be laundered through Adani's 13 Australian subsidiaries based in the Cayman Islands, or indeed that we will not see a repeat of the 60,000 tonnes of coal spilt off the coast of Mumbai, with no clean-up action, right here on our Great Barrier Reef?

Senator CANAVAN (QueenslandMinister for Resources and Northern Australia) (14:22): Again, up-front, I outline and confirm that I expect all of Australia's laws to be adhered to, and that I have confidence in the power and record of our regulatory authorities. I am confident they will ensure that will happen, and I am confident it will happen in this case.

In the specific project that Senator Di Natale has raised, there is a proposal at the moment from Adani—and from the Queensland government, may I say—to the Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility to look at lending money to Adani to build a rail line to open up the first coal basin in our country for 40 years. Almost every minerals province in this nation has been built—

The PRESIDENT: Order. Pause the clock. Senator Di Natale on a point of order?

Senator Di Natale: Relevance. My question went specifically to the fact that Adani has 13 Australian subsidiaries based in the Cayman Islands, and I wanted an assurance from the government that the money given to Adani would not find its way into a tax haven in the Cayman Islands?

The PRESIDENT: Thank you, Senator Di Natale. Senator Canavan did go part way to answering that question. I will remind him of the question, but he did go part way by saying he expected Adani would obey all Australian laws. Senator Canavan.

Senator CANAVAN: Mr President, I am happy to clarify that those laws include our tax laws. For Senator Di Natale, I can say that I expect those to be approved. I have sought advice from my department. There is nothing illegal in Adani's corporate structure. Their corporate structure is not overly more complicated than others that operate in this country. I have confidence in the ability of Australia's authorities to apply our laws. (Time expired)

The PRESIDENT: A final supplementary question, Senator Di Natale.

Senator DI NATALE (VictoriaLeader of the Australian Greens) (14:24): The ombudsman in one of the states of India delivered findings that Adani had bribed the police, local politicians, Customs, the pollution control board and the port department. In the absence of any federal anti-corruption watchdog here in Australia, how can the minister be confident that the unlawful exchange of money has not already occurred or will not occur into the future?

Senator CANAVAN (QueenslandMinister for Resources and Northern Australia) (14:25): I reject any suggestion—and the senator has not produced any evidence—that Australian officials are in any way connected with that. I think, again, that is a slur on Australian officials.

Senator Di Natale from the Australian Greens, I do wonder why you raise these issues about a company based in India and you do not raise the same issues about other companies that have been accused of those practices. Senator Dastyari, to his credit, has raised those issues, which are of great concern and which do concern regulatory authorities in this country who are making sure that laws are enforced. The Greens are only raising issues about one company, which happens to be based in India. The question has to be asked: are they truly the champions of diversity that they purport themselves to be? They do not look all that diverse, looking at them. And they are not bringing issues to this place that reflect the diversity of the resources sector around the world. They are focussing on one company because they do not want jobs created in regional Queensland. (Time expired)