Local governments put pressure on support for Adani

Members of Melbourne Ports Stop Adani Group. From Left: Pam O’Neil, Ansel Vanru, Bryn Jepson, Peter Moraitis and Nancy Otis. Picture supplied

By SAMANTHA O’CONNELL and ANGELICA SNOWDEN

 Port Phillip council has decided to re-examine its business partnerships with companies that support the proposed Adani coal mine.

The decision came after Byron Shire Council and Stop Adani activists put pressure on the City of Port Phillip to cut ties with organisations that support the controversial project.

Melbourne Ports’ Stop Adani group presented a letter to the council at its last meeting from Byron Shire Council, which resolved in December last year not to do business with Adani-related companies.

Stop Adani group member Ansel Vanru said he felt the Federal Government was blind to the views of many Australians.

“The Federal Government is acting as though this whole issue is not significant … local councils can lead the way and be the effective voice of the citizens,” he said.

“Like Byron Bay, Port Phillip Council is quite well known on a national level… [They have a] reputation for being progressive.”

Byron Shire Council said “environmental concerns” over the proposed Adani coal mine was the reason for the decision to publicly oppose it. 

The council also encouraged Port Phillip council and other councils around Australia to express their concerns over the Adani project to the Prime Minister and Queensland’s Premier.

Byron Shire’s decision was part of a trend which has seen local levels of government speak out on social and political issues.

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Protest against Adani at Parliament House in Canberra last month.

However, for those councils that have stepped out of line with the federal agenda in Victoria, punishment has been severe.

Last year, Yarra and Darebin councils were banned from conducting citizenship ceremonies after they voted not to recognise Australia Day on January 26, out of respect to indigenous people.

However, Port Phillip councillor David Brand said it was important for local councils to put pressure on the federal and state governments.

“There is a logic to weighing in on issues that are at a federal level. By following Byron Shire we … lend our voice to join with others on bigger issues, and this action against the Adani mine is a classic example of that,” Mr Brand said.

Melbourne University environmental sustainability lecturer Jody Williams said the Port Phillip council area would be particularly affected by the environmental damage caused by the mine.

“Port Phillip has been driving decisions that are consistent with a transition towards renewable energy because they’re a bayside council,” Ms Williams said.

“They’re the ones that are affected by storm surges and rising sea levels, so they’re trying to put all these initiatives in place,” she said.

Ms Williams said she applauded the council’s decision and was optimistic about the decision’s impact on the community.

“It’s an awareness thing … If a local council makes a decision, then the whole community becomes aware,” Ms Williams said.

“Awareness and information are really key to people’s decision-making.”