Batman voters don’t care about Queensland
LABOR is in thrall of Melbourne and the voters of the inner city seat of Batman have a message for Queensland: their climate change concerns are much more important than jobs and the economy.
Adani is all over the seat of Batman, in Melbourne. Literally. It's on its walls, its poles, street signs and shop windows in the suburb of Northcote.
The legal artists and no-so-legal "guerrilla'' activists have made sure the planned coal mine is a defining issue of the March 17 by-election 2500km away.
For the Greens the number one issue is the refugees but Adani is a strong number two and polling in The Age showed that 76 per cent of people in Batman would be more likely to change their vote to a party that opposes the mine.
On the streets of Northcote and Preston there is a lot of ignorance mixing with indifference and outright hostility for the mine.
On the ignorant side there is a 20-something man shopping with a heavily tattooed female friend for crystals in the Angel's Trumpet new age shop in Northcote's High Street.
He's socialist left, he says, so everyone should know where he stands on Adani.
"They want to give money to Gina Rinehart so they can all go an get f ...,'' he said.
Wrong mine, wrong owner. Rinehart has a stake with the stalled GVK project.
Dozens of other people sipping coffee in High Street's cafes have never heard of it.
An elderly man walking his small dog nods when asked about the mine.
"Yeah, I know about it. Sick of it,'' he said and walks off. Lots of others shake their heads.
Further to the north is what is mockingly called the hipster proof fence or the quinoa curtain. It's the line on a map separating the predominantly Labor parts of the seat from the surging Green vote.
Alice Henderson is a Green voter. She has an anti-Adani sign in her front yard along with ones for the Green candidate. She is just inside the quinoa curtain and a short walk from a huge mural of two Bill Shortens, supposedly depicting his "two faces'' on the Adani issue, one of which wants to talk about Johnathan Thurston rather than Adani.
When asked to point on a map where the Carmichael mine will be built she waves her finger around the southeast.
"I know it's at the southern end of the reef,'' she said.
She's surprised to find out she's about 500km out.
Alice knows about the unemployment in central and northern Queensland. In Townsville it's just under 10 per cent, starkly different to Northcote's 5.6 per cent.
"They've been lied to about jobs. It's only 300-400 jobs in construction and in operation it will all be automated. It's really short term,'' she said.
Adani has admitted it is likely some of the truck fleet will be automated, but coal mines are yet to be run by robots and even the most conservative of estimates puts the job numbers at about 1400.
There are big differences between Northcote and Townsville, where Adani has its regional headquarters.
The number of people in Northcote earning $3000 a week or more is 23 per cent. About 31 per cent are professionals. In Townsville, 12.6 per cent earn above $3000 a week and almost 19 per cent of Townsville resident workers earn less than $650 a week.
"I'm really worried about coal dust on the reef, as well, and the ships running into the reef.
Dust can kill coral and there has been accidents, like the Shen Neng 1 in 2010, but the State Government has previously said it's not the biggest threat to the reef which it cites as climate change, sediment and run off.
Adani also cites a crucial need for electricity for about 300 million people in India who don't yet a have it. Power stations are being built in India to help address that need.
"They should look at other options. We need to be more creative about energy. Coal is finished,'' Ms Henderson said.
"People care about schools and jobs in Batman but in a by election some issues are elevated. "The bigger issues are affecting all of Australia, like Adani. They need to stop subsidising coal and start subsidising other things like wind and solar and wave power.''
The State Government's veto of NAIF funding put an end to directly subsidising the mine but it will still get royalty relief. Renewables in Queensland already receive commercial support from State Government schemes.
Glenn runs the Enviro Shop in High Street, not far from the hairdresser who uses vegan shampoo.
Glenn admits he couldn't find the Carmichael site on a map but said the Adani issue was very different in Melbourne compared with Queensland.
"From here it all smells of corruption,'' he said. "There's a lot of concern about it, but it's purely about the environment and government corruption."
He said those issues are bigger than jobs for central Queensland.
"But I understand it, it's city people telling country people how to live,'' he said.
"I grew up in East Gippsland and there it's about the jobs in logging against the forests.''
He accepts that if the Greens win the seat of Batman they won't have much sway in whether the mine goes ahead or not, but the campaign has forced Labor to the Left and a win would deal the Greens into the political game.
Some Labor insiders have already given up on winning Batman and think a Greens victory may signal a change in attitude within the party, potentially shifting it from scepticism to outright opposition.
Others point to the Queensland Labor victory of three seats in Townsville despite the rejection by the Premier of NAIF funding for Adani.