Labor Deputy Leader Tanya Plibersek in Brisbane yesterday. Picture: Glenn Hunt/AAP
Labor Deputy Leader Tanya Plibersek in Brisbane yesterday. Picture: Glenn Hunt/AAP

Diplomatic stoush emerging over Adani treatment

LABOR has been warned it is on the verge of a diplomatic rift with India over Adani because of its use of "discriminatory language" that is not hurled at Asian or European mining companies.

In a terse swipe, the influential Australia India Business Council levelled a counter-attack at federal deputy leader Tanya Plibersek, who yesterday said an Indian mining company could not be relied upon to bring jobs to central and north Queensland.

The comments also jolted Resources Minister Matt Canavan to accuse Ms Plibersek of being "no different to (controversial Senator) Fraser Anning, who has tried to use the politics of division to bolster a political opportunity".

But it was Australia India Business Council chairman Jim Varghese who warned politicians of the broader consequences of giving the impression that companies from India could not be trusted to provide jobs in Australia.

"This type of discriminatory language can easily be misunderstood by the Indian diaspora and businesses working in Australia,'' Dr Varghese said.

"If these types of comments continue to go unchecked, it could potentially significantly undermine the bilateral relationship between India and Australia.

"This would be reflected in diplomatic circles. There are many mining companies in Australia with Asian, European and American parent companies that do not receive this kind of discriminatory commentary."


In a swipe at Adani, which has already invested millions of dollars in Queensland and has already employed staff, Ms Plibersek told ABC Radio in Melbourne that she was concerned about the mine's impact on the environment.

Asked if Labor was sitting on the fence and saying one thing in Victoria and another in Queensland, Ms Plibersek said Labor had been consistent.

"We say this project has to stack up on its environmental credentials and its economic credentials,'' she said.

Told it had received its final federal approval to start, she muddied the waters by saying that there were more approvals to come.

However, the Morrison Government's approval this week allows for construction works on the mine to begin such as removing soil, building roads and building a railway.

Further sub-approvals will be needed before coal can be produced as the project moves through its various stages.

Australia India Business Council chairman Jim Varghese. File picture.
Australia India Business Council chairman Jim Varghese. File picture.

"Well we have to follow the science and law,'' Ms Plibersek said.

"We have to follow the science and the law and we don't know the basis for these decisions … but I'll tell you this much. I think the jobs numbers are overstated.

"I am concerned about some of the environmental information that we've had from this, we can't rely on an Indian mining company to bring jobs to central and north Queensland that's why we have made such a concerted effort to invest in infrastructure projects in central and north Queensland, road projects, port projects, the construction jobs that come with them and also boosting our tourism and agriculture sectors in those areas."

Senator Canavan said Ms Plibersek needed to explain what problem she had with an Indian company.

Ms Plibersek said, "Matt Canavan will say anything to distract from the fact he doesn't support Labor's plan to create thousands of Queensland jobs by investing in road, rail and port projects".