A community legal service has urged Australia's consumer watchdog to crack down on Adani for misleading vulnerable jobseekers with inflated claims its Queensland mine will create 10,000 jobs.
Environmental Justice Australia (EJA), acting for Townsville jobseeker Chris McCoomb, has referred the Indian miner to the Australian Consumer and Competition Commission (ACCC) over its jobs spruiking.
The case comes more than two years after the Land Court of Queensland found Adani had inflated its figures by almost 700 per cent.
EJA has called on the ACCC to investigate and stop public representations by Adani that lead vulnerable jobseekers, including possibly remote Indigenous residents, to spend thousands of dollars on training for jobs that will never exist.
Mr McCoomb's 17-page complaint names at least one Queensland mining training outfit that is using Adani's inflated figures … to promote sometimes costly training courses and certifications to cash-strapped jobseekers.
That company advertises a one day mining induction course for $650.
Amid doubts about financial backing for the Carmichael coalmine, Adani has stuck by its claim the project will create 10,000 direct and indirect jobs, including in newspaper advertisements last month and its online jobs portal.
State Opposition Leader Tim Nicholls repeated the figure during the Queensland election campaign, while Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull went even further by claiming in April Adani would generate tens of thousands of jobs.
That is despite state Land Court president Carmel MacDonald finding in 2015 Adani had significantly overstated its job figures in court evidence and to the State Government.
Ms MacDonald rejected Adani's modelling showing the number of Queensland jobs generated by the mine alone to be over 10,000 [full time equivalent] jobs per annum from 2024.
She instead accepted testimony by Adani's own expert witness the project would increase average annual employment by 1,206 jobs in Queensland and 1,464 jobs in Australia.
Adani launched a public relations campaign this year to counter mounting opposition to Australia's largest proposed coal mine, which relies on job creation for Queensland's struggling mining belt as its key pitch.
Mr McCoomb, a volunteer coordinator with the Australian Unemployed Workers Union, said Adani had created a lot of false hope, particularly up here in the north.
We have to ensure there's honesty in what Adani's saying. Those claims are repeated in the media by politicians and that's creating a false sense of hope, he said.
Towns like Bowen in particular are really banking on the project going ahead.
I suppose it's created a fair bit of excitement in relation to the potential for employment.
At the same time, we know that the figures Adani are throwing around out there aren't consistent with what [their expert] told the Queensland land court.
Mr McCoomb said mining industry hopefuls had to complete a number of courses before being eligible for work. One course he took cost $1,200.
EJA lawyer David Barnden told the ACCC the evidence for misleading and deceptive conduct … is strong.
Our client is concerned these representations are misleading and will lead vulnerable jobseekers in Australia to heavily invest in training for jobs that will never exist, he said.
ACCC is urged to take action to prevent the continued dissemination of Adani's misleading or deceptive statements that are directed at jobseekers.
Vulnerable jobseekers should not be misled into spending money or training courses or certification without the true number of expected direct and indirect jobs being published by Adani.
An ACCC spokesman declined to comment on the Adani complaint.
The agency can act on misleading claims in business via enforceable undertakings, legal action and fines.
EJA called on the ACCC to intervene on the same issue in 2015 when acting for progressive lobby group GetUp, months before the Land Court ruling.
The watchdog invited GetUp to pursue its own legal action.
But Mr McCoomb, the AUWU and the large number of unemployed workers in regional Queensland who may also benefit from the ACCC's investigation … do not have the resources to pursue legal action, Mr Barnden said.
He said the matter met ACCC criteria for a priority investigation, including conduct involving issues of national or international significance [and] detrimentally affecting disadvantaged or vulnerable consumer groups, including possibly Indigenous consumers living in remote areas.
An Adani spokesman could not be reached for comment.
By Joshua Robertson
Published by ABC News Online on 6 December 2017