Anthony Albanese says he supports jobs and economic activity from the Adani coalmine, but he has blasted a feasibility study into a new coal-fired power plant in Collinsville as “hush money” for climate sceptics in the Coalition.
In Queensland on Wednesday for his fourth “vision statement” since taking the Labor leadership, Albanese told reporters the ALP needed to improve its electoral performance in the state given the poor showing in last year’s federal election. He said he was listening to voters in a number of regional centres.
Asked whether he supported Adani’s controversial Carmichael coal project given Labor’s equivocations during last year’s election, Albanese said the proposal had now been approved. “It’s a good thing those jobs have been created. I support jobs regardless of where they are.”
Albanese said he supported the jobs Adani would generate “and the economic activity that will arise from them”.
But the Labor leader blasted the Morrison government’s decision to allocate $4m to a feasibility study examining a new coal plant at Collinsville in northern Queensland.
Albanese said the prime minister often decried taxes as the basis for environmental policy “but they are using $4m of taxpayers funds to give to a private operation that has no record of building a new power station anywhere”.
He said those funds had been allocated without a tender, and ran counter to previous statements from Scott Morrison and Peter Dutton that they did not support taxpayer subsidies. “I see that, frankly, as hush money for the climate sceptics in the Coalition government.”
The feasibility study examining Collinsville is proceeding because of strenuous lobbying by Queensland Nationals, but a number of Liberals have argued taxpayers should not be subsidising new coal plants.
While a majority of Labor MPs believe the opposition needs to stay the course on climate action, some in the party’s right argue the party needs to be more positive about the coal industry.
New South Wales rightwinger Joel Fitzgibbon earlier this year wondered how many more elections Labor was prepared to lose by arguing for ambitious climate action. Fitzgibbon represents an electorate in the Hunter Valley with a significant proportion of coal workers, and suffered a negative swing of more than 9% in two-party-preferred terms last May.
Albanese said on Wednesday Labor needed to improve its performance in Queensland, which yielded similar negative results to the Hunter last May. The foundation of that was the party being clear that it respected workers, he said.
“There is a range of things we need to do better in Queensland,” the Labor leader said. “Our priority is jobs and jobs here in Queensland, and we make no apologies for that.”