Adani’s proposed Carmichael coal mine in Central Queensland is nothing if not controversial. Yet the Indian multinational conglomerate is determined to turn its mega mine dream into reality.
Pushing an uphill battle against public opinion, political appetite and fund sourcing, Adani’s “people” are in the ear of Australia’s decision makers consistently.
Like no other entity currently on the Australian political landscape, Adani needs representation at the highest levels of government.
And it is paying the big bucks to make sure it gets exactly that.
The Australian Government Lobbyists Register lists Govstrat Pty Ltd as Adani’s chief lobbyist company.
Govstrat is headed by former Queensland Labor Party treasurer Damian Power.
The company employs as its senior counsel and principal adviser the former Queensland premier and Nationals Party leader Rob Borbidge.
Labor leader Bill Shorten’s one-time chief of staff Ken Macpherson is also on the books as a Govstrat lobbyist as is Jeff Popp, who was chief of staff to the former Liberal National Party Queensland deputy premier Jeff Seeney.
“There is something that jumps out very clearly with this lobby firm,” said one well-known Canberra lobbyist who asked not to be named.
“They have got well-connected people and they have both sides of politics covered.
“There is also a strong Queensland link here. But these people are walking the corridors in Canberra too.
“Of course there is the wining and dining and whatever kind of representation they can get. And it is about using your networks. But it is also far more sophisticated than that. The stakes are so high here. The Adani lobbyists are putting up a strong political and economic argument.”
Also on the lobbyists register is the firm Strategic Political Counsel Pty Ltd, a newish company founded by Michael Kauter – a personal friend of former deputy prime minister Barnaby Joyce.
Among the clients listed under Strategic Political Counsel are British American Tobacco Australia, the Australian Lotteries and Newsagents Association, and one Adani Australia.
“All of these lobbyists, from whichever firm has a stake in Adani, are working extremely hard right now,” another Canberra lobbyist said.
“They are working hard on the business case and trying to convince those in charge of the economic and central government portfolios that the case is good.
“They are not going to get any other portfolios. They need the economic portfolios. They want to get [Prime Minister] Scott Morrison on board and they are working hard on that. They likely sh-t themselves with the leadership change, but their focus is now on him.
“They can only win this if they can convince the right people that their project fits with the Coalition’s economic model for Australia. And they are investing big time in Queensland.”
Another Canberra powerbroker who asked for anonymity spoke somewhat more grimly about the current power of the mining lobbyists.
“Lobbyists’ ability to influence legislation right now is zero because there is a federal election on the horizon,” the contact said.
“To some degree, lobbyists are butt kickers, but the problem is right now that we don’t know whose butt to kick.
“The big lobbyists are well known enough that they can keep out of trouble. But with an election looming, most are executing a transitional model and that can be quite problematic.
“Working on a relationships model is OK, but nothing is getting done. And the mining lobbyists are some of the hardest hit right now.”
As the federal election draws closer – and as polling increasingly points to a change in government – many lobbyists have shifted their focus from the Coalition to Labor.
“People are leaving lobby firms and those stocks are not being replenished,” one lobbyist said.
“There is a rapid changeover of staff with some good people not coming back to the profession and a lack of investment in good new people to replace them.
“Adani wants the best and is willing to pay for it. But there is a fatigue factor setting in with a lot of mining lobbyists. Adani is no exception.”