Australian prime minister Tony Abbott has publicly backed Indian mining giant Adani's coalmine in central Queensland, arguing that the $16.5 billion project was "vitally important" and that courts should not "be turned into a means of sabotaging" such projects.
"If the courts can be turned into a means of sabotaging projects which are striving to meet the highest environmental standards, then we have a real problem as a nation," he said. "We can't become a nation of naysayers; we have to remain a nation that gives people a fair go if they play by the rules," Abbott said.
His remarks came after a court this week revoked environmental approval for the Adani project, which aims to build one of the world's largest coal mine in Queensland, opposed by green groups and local residents.
"As a country we must, in principle, favour projects like this," he told The Australian (paywall) on Thursday. "This is a vitally important project for the economic development of Queensland and it's absolutely critical for the human welfare literally of tens of millions of people in India," the prime minister said.
Abbott said he is "frustrated" at the court's decision and asserted that the projects like Adani mine were too vital to be hindered by red tape. "If we get to the stage where the rules are such that projects like this can be endlessly frustrated, that's dangerous for our country and it's tragic for the wider world," Abbott said.
"While it's absolutely true that we want the highest environmental standards to apply to projects in Australia, and while it's absolutely true that people have a right to go to court, this is a $21 billion investment, it will create 10,000 jobs in Queensland and elsewhere in our country," he said.
Abbott also said the mine would have a positive impact in India, where Adani is headquartered. "Let them go ahead for the workers of Australia and for the people of countries like India who right at the moment have no electricity. Imagine what it's like to live in the modern world with no electricity," the prime minister said.
The recent setback to the Adani Carmichael coal project was also taken up by opposition leader Bill Shorten who called for proper process to be followed. The "mess" with Adani came about "because the government rushed its approvals and then it's got tripped up in the court system", Shorten said. “I don’t think it is right that the leader of this nation is now second-guessing our judges."
"The government thinks it is above the law," said a statement from the Mackay Conservation Group, which had filed a legal challenge against Adani's mine, proposed to be Australia's largest. Opposition Labor party said that "the leader of this nation is now second-guessing our judges”.
Adani's environmental authority was set aside after the federal court found that Environment Minister Hunt had not properly considered advice about two threatened species -- the yakka skink and the ornamental snake in the Galilee basin.
Environmentalists have hailed the federal court's ruling against the Carmichael mine. Responding to the new ruling, Adani, which recently suspended work in a number of areas on the mine as it awaits government approvals, attributed the ruling to a "technical legal error" and said it was confident the matter would be rectified.
On Thursday, Australia's largest lender Commonwealth Bank of Australia (CBA) ended its role as financial adviser to the group's coal mine project.
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