Federal Resources Minister Matt Canavan has conceded the future of the giant Adani coal mine is in doubt following the likely re-election of the Queensland Labor government.
The billion-dollar project was a hot button issue in the state campaign with activist group GetUp! running hard on the issue and high-profile protesters dogging candidates at events throughout the month-long campaign.
The issue divided voters, with support for the project in jobs-hungry areas such as Townsville and Mackay but opposition in inner-city suburbs of Brisbane.
Anti-Adani protesters haunted Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk during the first week of the election campaign before she announced Labor would veto a $1 billion Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility loan the company had applied for to build a train line to connect the mine to the coast.
The announcement was a backdown for Ms Palaszczuk, who had previously argued the mine would be a boon for jobs in regional Queensland.
Queensland LNP leader Tim Nicholls accused Ms Palaszczuk of putting thousands of jobs at risk in return for shoring up support for Labor in inner-city Brisbane seats, which were being eyed by the Greens.
On Sunday afternoon, it appeared Labor would be able to form a majority government with Ms Palaszczuk on track to win the necessary 48 seats.
The result casts significant doubt on the future of the project.
Senator Canavan, the project’s strongest supporter in cabinet, conceded Ms Palaszczuk’s decision to veto the loan meant the mine was now unlikely to go ahead.
“The Queensland government can veto, they’re in their rights to do it,” he told the ABC’s Insiders program on Sunday morning.
But he warned the decision would haunt the party in years to come.
“If they [Labor] seek to destroy the thousands of jobs that would be created, and the hundreds of jobs that are already created from this mine, that will be hung around their necks and that will be a great millstone for the Labor Party going into any future elections in regional Queensland,” Senator Canavan said.
“The reality is, in regional Queensland this mine is greatly supported … Any Labor Queensland government that seeks to try and stop this project will have that hung around their heads in regional Queensland.”
Adani wants to start exporting coal via the Abbot Point coal terminal in 2020, starting with 16 to 18 million tonnes before increasing to 27 million tonnes.
Opponents argue the project would decimate areas of the Great Barrier Reef and be responsible for a huge increase in Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions.
The $1 billion Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility loan would fund a rail line critical to the project.
GetUp! made the loan a key election issue and made 130,000 calls to voters on the mine over the course of the campaign.
Greens leader Richard Di Natale, who said last month he was prepared to be arrested at protests against the mine, said it had been a significant factor in the election.
Senator Di Natale cited double-digit swings to his party in inner-city Brisbane electorates as evidence of opposition to the mine.