Labor pushes for federal investigation into Adani

Labor is pressing the Turnbull government for a federal investigation into Adani, arguing the commonwealth has responsibility for sensitive wetlands contaminated near the Great Barrier Reef after Cyclone Debbie.

Guardian Australia revealed last week concerns that Adani submitted an altered laboratory report while appealing a fine for contamination of the Caley Valley wetlands on the Queensland coast.

The wetlands were blackened by coal-laden water released from the Abbot Point port after Cyclone Debbie’s torrential rains inundated its coal storage facilities in March 2017.

Federal Labor has grabbed last week’s Guardian report as it hardens its public position on Adani’s controversial Queensland mine project.

On Tuesday in parliament, pressing for a federal investigation of Adani’s conduct, the shadow environment minister, Tony Burke, pointed out that environmental approvals for the Adani Abbot Point terminal placed conditions on the project, including the downstream impacts on the Caley Valley wetlands.

Burke asked, “given the minister has responsibility for the wetlands”, when would the federal government investigate Adani’s conduct and report publicly.

But the environment and energy minister, Josh Frydenberg, insisted the “primary regulatory authority” for the project was the Queensland government.

Frydenberg said Labor’s positioning on Adani was about the looming Batman byelection, where Labor faces a challenge from the Greens to hold the seat in inner-city Melbourne, rather than matters of policy substance.

Shadow cabinet discussed options for toughening Labor’s stance on the Adani mine on Monday night and the issue also dominated the Labor left caucus meeting, where differing views were expressed by MPs.

Labor is mulling legal options but some in the opposition are concerned a sharp move against the project will trigger a significant backlash about sovereign risk, and have negative implications in both Queensland and other coal regions.

Asked on Sky News on Tuesday about the implications if Labor ultimately adopted a position of reversing approvals for the Adani project, the shadow treasurer, Chris Bowen, dead-batted.

“We’re getting very far ahead of ourselves,” he said.