US-funded activists working against Adani's coal project in Australia: report

The Australian government is worried over foreign funded activists working against the state's interests by thwarting efforts to exploit its natural resources and create jobs for millions.

Federal ministers and the Queensland Premier, Annastacia Palaszczuk, have warned of the danger posed by activists to jobs and investment in Australia.

Palaszczuk questioned the links of the so-called environment groups in Australia and their US funders to the chairman of Hillary Clinton's Democratic election campaign, John Podesta.

The Queensland premier's comments follow Indian power minister Piyush Goyal's revelations that the years of legal challenges to the vast Carmichael coal project have been funded by multi-million-dollar foundations in the US, which, he said, ''will certainly dampen future investments'' from India.

After a meeting with Goyal, Australian federal Resources Minister Matt Canavan, who has previously criticised the campaign to block the Indian project, said, ''We need to be able to take advantage of the demand for coal in Asia.''

Coal is in demand in Asia, including India and China, and any denial of mining rights in Australia or elsewhere would curb that demand. India and China will look for cheaper alternatives to Australian coal, which could only worsen the level of pollution.

Goyal also said while large Indian projects in Australia would help expand investment here, India's growing demand for coal could be met from other sources, such as Indonesia and South Africa.

''So it is not as if coal is not available; coal is available from other parts of the world. It is up to Australia to decide whether they want to expand their economy, whether they want to create jobs in their states, or whether they want to forgo that business al­together,'' he said.

It is estimated the Adani project would create up to 10,000 jobs in its construction phase.

Writing in The Australian on Sunday, Minerals Council of Australia executive director Brendan Pearson said foreign funds have been used ''to initiate vexatious legal challenges and cynically ­induce objections from indigenous groups while using every ruse to avoid disclosure of the source of the funds''. He raised questions about the knowledge of these strategies ''by one of Washington DC's ultimate political ­insiders''.

Meanwhile, John Hepburn, the executive director of the Sunrise Project, the US-funded, Australia-based campaign leader against Adani, on Saturday said he did not know his emails were passed on to Hilary Clinton's campaign manager Podesta and denied a ''link'' with the Democrats.

The Weekend Australian revealed that ''progressive'' US foundations were funding opposition to the Adani project and passing reports from Sunrise Australia, which was using legal challenges and advice to indigenous groups against the mine, to Mrs Clinton's campaign chairman, Podesta.

In August last year environmentalists won a court fight against Adani over the protection of a skink and a snake (See: Australian court revokes approval for Adani's $12.2 bn Carmichael coal mine), but last month the Indian company won the latest round in the Federal Court. Goyal said India had to ­develop its economy and provide cheap power to hundreds of ­millions of people, yet faced oppos­ition from ''environmentalists and so-called NGOs''.

''We are trying to tackle them. We are looking at their sources of funding seriously,'' he said. ''It is time other parts of the world get together and take this up as a challenge. I need to get electricity to those 200 million who don't have electricity. I need to make sure that electricity is affordable.''

Goyal declined to comment on links between the Australian Sunrise Project, the Sandler Foundation and the US Democrats.

Senator Canavan said, ''Asian countries want our resources and our coal. China and Japan already take a lot and India wants more. We need to be able to take advantage of that demand.''

''That a major US philanthrop­ist has been emailing the senior ­adviser to the likely next US president about the expansion of coalmining in Australia highlights a major diplomatic risk for the Turnbull government,'' Hepburn said, adding that the risk was ''that a Clinton administration will hold a mirror to Australia's climate inaction and pursuit of new coal reserves''.

''It is no surprise that the ­ongoing expansion of coalmining in Australia is on the radar of Clinton's most senior adviser.

''While the world is ratifying the Paris climate agreement in ­record time, Australia is becoming a global embarrassment for being the first developed country to go backwards on climate policy.

''With the UN climate conference in Marrakesh only weeks away, this leak adds to the wider pattern of international concern over Australia's failure to meet our international obligations and ­dogged commitment to give ­special treatment to the coal ­industry while the rest of the world rapidly shifts to clean energy. Of course we and other environmental groups are fighting tooth and nail to stop the Adani project.''

The Sunrise Project boasted in its secret briefings passed to Podesta that it was trying to hide its funding sources from the Australian parliament.

Australia's elected government, as John Howard pointed out, cannot decide what mining projects are to  be opened up in the country and the circumstances in which they open. Such authority has been usurped by overseas governments (including prospective US presidents or their staff), self-appointed meddling international activists or local vigilante ''lawfare'' litigants funded by activists.