Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack says he understands why Adani wanted the names of government scientists who reviewed a crucial plan for its Queensland coal mine.
Adani has confirmed it wrote to the federal environment department on January 25, asking for the names of government scientists from the CSIRO and Geoscience Australia.
At that time, the scientists were reviewing a groundwater management plan that Adani needed approval for in order to build its its contentious mine.
Adani has said there was nothing untoward about the request, which was ultimately refused.
It said it was simply seeking peace of mind that no bias would creep into the review process.
Mr McCormack said he understood the Indian mining company’s actions.
“No doubt they wanted to determine that, I suppose, those arguing against their proposals were not just some sort of quasi, anti-development groups or individuals,” he has told the ABC.
Adani has said it sought the names of all CSIRO and Geoscience Australia scientists working on the review because it wanted to ensure the process was fair and free from bias.
In its January email, Adani told the department: “You may be aware of recent press coverage regarding an anti-coal and/or anti-Adani bias potentially held by experts reviewing other Adani government approvals.
“Those media reports have caused great concern for Adani. As a result of those reports, Adani wants to ensure that it is being treated fairly and, in a manner consistent with other industry participants.”
Adani wrote that it was “not suggesting any bias in relation to these organisations” and promised not to contact individual personnel.
“Adani simply wants to know who is involved in the review to provide it with peace of mind that it is being treated fairly and that the review will not be hijacked by activists with a political, as opposed to scientific, agenda,” the email read.
The environment department said Adani’s request for the scientists’ names was ultimately refused.
But CSIRO staff association secretary Sam Popovski said he was alarmed by Adani’s request.
“It was clear that Adani seemed to be suggesting bias, or potential bias, way before any of the scientific evidence was actually presented to the department,” he told the ABC.
Adani was unable to proceed with constructing its mine until the groundwater plan was approved by both the state and federal governments.
Geoscience Australia said it was “informally” advised by the environment department about Adani’s request.
“Geoscience Australia advised the department that our scientific advice is always released on behalf of Geoscience Australia as a whole, not individual scientists. The result of the request reflects this position.