The Coalition is reportedly at war over a key decision, with the issue threatening to tear the Liberal and National parties apart on the eve of a federal election.
Concerns over the Adani coal mine’s remaining approvals have boiled over, with reports a delegation of Queensland MPs is demanding action.
According to The Australian, Queensland MPs have raised concerns about Environment Minister Melissa Price’s delay in signing off the remaining approvals needed for the mine and are worried the delay may mean the decision is left to a future Labor government.
The paper suggests Ms Price received a recommendation to approve the groundwater management plan for the project but is refusing to do so due to intense lobbying from federal Liberal MPs in Victoria.
Sky News host Laura Jayes reported Resources Minister Matt Canavan even threatened to quit Cabinet over the delay, although he later denied this.
Adani’s proposed Carmichael coal mine in Queensland’s Galilee Basin is a contentious project that has sparked mass protests around Australia.
In contrast to Queensland electorates — where many are keen for the jobs the mine is hoped to create — many residents in city areas oppose the mine because of potential impacts to climate change and the Great Barrier Reef, as well as concerns over groundwater use and threatened species.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison has reportedly denied there has been any delay in the approval process.
But anti-Adani campaigners are worried the Government may be pressured to push through the approvals.
“It is outrageous that the Coalition is considering pushing through critical groundwater approvals for Adani’s mine on the eve of an election,” Australian Conservation Foundation campaigner Christian Slattery said in a statement.
The Coalition is not the only party split over Adani’s plan, with reports Labor is also divided over the coal mine.
Labor leader Bill Shorten is reportedly sceptical about the mine but has not said he would block it from going ahead.
Environmental groups have previously slammed the mine’s plan, which they say is not properly assessed and puts water resources at risk.
Adani was originally promoted as Australia’s biggest coal mine that would create 10,000 jobs, but the company unveiled plans for a scaled-back project late last year.
It still needs a groundwater plan and a black-throated finch management plan to be signed off by state and federal governments.
Adani was asked to update its groundwater-dependent ecosystems management plan after the CSIRO, Australia’s peak scientific organisation, identified serious flaws, according to the ABC.
The CSIRO was asked to review Adani’s plan by the Federal Department of the Environment and Energy. Geoscience Australia has also been asked to look at it.
The plan must be approved before Adani can start excavation of the first box cut — a small open cut that acts as an entrance to an underground mine.