GREEN LIGHT: MP Michelle Landry (left), AusTrak General Manager Murray Adams, Adani Australia Chief Executive Jeyakumar Janakaraj and Senator Matt Canavan.
GREEN LIGHT: MP Michelle Landry (left), AusTrak General Manager Murray Adams, Adani Australia Chief Executive Jeyakumar Janakaraj and Senator Matt Canavan. Contributed

Canavan frustrated as foreign-funded groups drown out local voice

THE ROCKHAMPTON-based Minister for Resources and Northern Australia says his frustration is growing at the number of people from outside the region talking about and talking down Central Queensland.

"We they want to save the Great Barrier Reef themselves, when in fact we really should hear from people who actually live here, work here and want their children to have a future here,” Senator Matt Canavan said.

Senator Canavan is on a road trip this week extending from Rockhampton to Townsville and west, including the Carmichael mine site.

"I want to get out and sell the message to the rest of Australia about why there is so much support here for the Carmichael mine, dams and weirs and to get the tourism industry firing,” he said.

In the first quarter of 2017, 40 businesses closed down in Rockhampton alone but Senator Canavan said he firmly believes there are better times ahead and that the Adani Carmichael mine will happen.

"In the next few months real jobs will be created in real time...we need to get things going,” he said.

"SMW (mining industry contractor and supplier) is firing again and if we can get Rookwood Weir going - and we're in strong discussions with the State Government about how we can do that - that will create another 2000 jobs and double agricultural production in this region.”

Senator Canavan said it takes a good plan to get out of tough times and believes the Great Barrier Reef can be protected alongside economic and tourism development.

"We all want to protect the Great Barrier Reef...the Adani mine is probably the most assessed project in our nation's history,” he said.

"But if we're going to tackle global warming, we need to make sure that good quality coal here in Australia has its use maximised, because it will displace coal which is being mined in India and in Indonesia that's typically of a much lower quality and burns more carbon emissions for every kilowatt hour of electricity produced.”

He said well-funded activist groups had put up serious opposition to the mine using social media campaigns and locals needed to counteract that message with their own.

"A lot of those groups are based overseas and we saw last year where emails from the United States Democrat party were leaked that showed high levels in the party cheering on groups like the Sandler Foundation, a multi-million dollar fund helping to fund activist groups here in Australia.

"I think we need a lot tougher laws on foreign donations and disclosure in this country and we should know if foreign interests, whether from America or other countries, are trying to oppose economic development in north Queensland, like through this well-funded social media campaign.

"The local Indigenous voice, the local businesses, the workers all want a future for our region and for the Adani Carmichael mine to go ahead. Unfortunately that voice gets lost to the rest of the country sometimes, but I want to help change that using my platform and my position.”

The Federal Government has announced plans to introduce legislation in the spring sessions of parliament banning donations to political parties and third party groups from foreign-funded groups.

Senator Canavan said such donations presented serious risks to Australian democracy.