Compromised Primary Sources and the Galilee Basin Shell Game

I went to the State Library of Queensland the other night after speaking with a lawyer from the Environmental Defenders Office Qld. There I used microfiche (for the first time) to scan the article where it was announced to the world that the Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility (NAIF) had given “conditional approval” to a 1 billion loan for North Galilee Basin Rail Project (NGBR). The original article, which appeared on page 15 of the Saturday edition of the Dec 3, 2016 Courier Mail (CM), has all but disappeared from the internet. As the recent NGBR update from EDO Qld states, the media “broadly reported” the news of the NAIF loan. I discussed with the EDO lawyer this aspect of how members of the general public and the media have come to believe, or not be aware, or not believe that the NAIF loan is ‘earmarked’ for the NGBR. The EDO lawyer agreed that the Courier Mail article was a compromised primary source. I went further and argued that the buried nature of the article and it’s absence from the internet made it almost impossible to reference, easy to miss, and very easy to ignore. If the media, activists, and the public are limited from knowledge of a project then they are largely prevented from investigating and analysing the threat posed by that project.
Fast Tracked NGBR
The Courier Mail article buried in page 15 that announced the NAIF-Adani loan to the world
I believe Adani and the state and federal governments are playing a ‘shell game’ with the rail projects in the Galilee Basin. By “shell game” I mean the classic confidence trick with three shells and a pea where distractions and deft movements are used to fleece members of the public. Shell games involve the masking of the most important objective, that the victim should lose track of the position of the pea and a chance at winning. The most important objective – in my reckoning – is ensuring that the North Galilee Basin Rail Project is met with little resistance because it is THE piece of infrastructure that makes the Galilee Basin coal complex possible. This is why I believe that Adani have fused their second rail project, the 189 km east west connection to the existing narrow gauge system in the Bowen Basin, with the coal mine project. By fusing a rail line with the coal mine it creates an appearance that can be readily assumed to be the whole picture. Every time the full name of the Adani mine project is read or written, a rail component is affirmed, and all that is needed to keep a second rail project from interfering with the assumption that the rail project attached to the mine is indeed “the” Adani rail project is to obscure the real rail project, the North Galilee Basin Rail Project.
Shell games require slight of hand. A key component of deception/distraction here is the media and the quality of primary sources. Finding definitive primary sources about the North Galilee Basin Rail Project is extraordinarily difficult. Which is why this buried article which passes on statements made only to the Courier Mail and then telegraphed to the rest of the media is important to understand.
The NGBR update provided on April 18, 2017 by EDO Qld was a response to the information giving requirements of a particular group of clients, most likely environmental NGOs like the Mackay Conservation Group and the Australian Conservation Foundation. It is the first ever statement on the NGBR by EDO Qld. This is significant, EDO Qld provide legal support for their clients, they do not campaign on issues, but rather, they provide legal support for their client’s campaigns.  As such they only publish information in line with the objectives of their clients.
Here’s a link to my crowfunding campaign to disclose a successful RTI request relating to the NGBR from late 2014:

Only a “standard gauge” rail line will deliver the economies of scale to open up the Galilee Basin.

In 2014 David Quinn was the Executive Director of Projects Queensland in Queensland Treasury. He was responsible for all coordinated projects worth more than 50 million AUD.

In a right to information request (RTI) disclosure made to Jeremy Tager at the North Queensland Conservation Council (RTI 493) David Quinn explains how the unspecified Galilee Basin rail project was “standard gauge” and that this was the key to “get the economies of scale”.

There are 2 rail projects proposed by Adani, the North Galilee Basin Rail Project is the one listed as “standard gauge”. It is a greenfield project that will vertically integrate Adani into the Galilee Basin coal complex providing rail infrastructure for several other mines for decades. The other rail project proposed by Adani is part of the Carmichael mine application. It is listed as “dual gauge” and is designed to connect to the existing narrow gauge system.

Here’s the full quote from David Quinn in RTI NQC493:

 “The other issue here is that it is standard gauge which in a Qld sense is bespoke but makes sense for Galilee due to the need to transport the higher tonnages to offset the longer distances to get the economies of scale.

The benefit if it could be realised is the reasons you have previously outlined in that it becomes a vital piece of infrastructure, underwritten by ToP (noting the aversion of miners to this once common contractual arrangement) and that we would not drop a sleeper onto the ground until the Adani’s, GVK’s et are well and truly committed. Certainly a more liquid asset to allow our exit in the future.”

David Quinn NQC493 scale

Adani have a tendency to telegraph their announcements through exclusives with large newspapers like the Courier Mail and India’s Economic Times. It was through a Courier Mail exclusive that we learned about the 1 billion dollar NAIF loan and for which rail project it had been earmarked.

Renee Viellaris in The Courier Mail:

The Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility has ticked off conditional approval for the North Galilee Basin Rail Project and will now undertake more detailed assessments of the project. “

While the Queensland premier was visiting India recently the Economic Times printed part of a statement from Adani. This statement, while widely syndicated across English language media in India, was never picked up in Australia.

Debjoy Sengupta quoting Adani in The Economic Times:

Our vision is to operate a vertically integrated model – with the extraction of coal from our Carmichael Mine, transported by rail to Abbot Point, and exported to meet consumer and business demands in offshore markets. The project will build Australia’s largest thermal coal mine in the north Galilee Basin approximately 160km north-west of Clermont in Central Queensland, linked by a standard gauge North Galilee Basin Rail Line to two terminals at Abbot Point Port near Bowen,”

Why would the media in Australia ignore such a clear statement in favour of a specific piece of infrastructure that is under constant discussion here in Australia? One of the reasons is because they can, because no official media release is publicly available, and because the statement quoted in The Economic Times is a compromised primary source that can be easily ignored.

Either way the Adani quote specifies a “a standard gauge North Galilee Basin Rail Line” for a reason and that reason could well be because they want the market in India to feel confident that they are serious about having a vertically integrated model”. 

My current crowdfunding campaign is about digging up more answers by going back to a successful Qld Treasury RTI disclosure from 2014 on which the processing charge had never been paid. Treasury RTI 488.

RTI requests are all about the particulars of language.

Text of the RTI request:

All documents relating to the announcement on November 17th in relation to the Infrastructure Enabling Agreement, including but not limited to the decision to provide Queensland government funding to facilitate Adani Mining Pty Ltd’s North Galilee Basin Rail project, including correspondence with the Department of Premier and Cabinet, Queensland Treasury, or Adani Mining Pty Ltd, its related entities or agents for the period from 1 September 2014 to 9 December 2014.”

Text of Treasury response:

Decision made. Applicant did not pay the processing charges within required timeframe. Documents available upon payment of the processing charges of $509.20. Please contact the Administrative Review Unit on (07) 3035 1863 or by email if you wish to access these documents.”

Here’s a link to my crowdfunding campaign: