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The fateful flight that toppled a popular mayor - and almost killed me

Insights

I was a passenger on the fateful flight that has cost Rockhampton mayor Margaret Strelow her job – and once again has placed Adani, or Bravus as it now calls itself, at the centre of a political storm.

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There were eight mayors on the Adani-funded flight to India to see the mining giant’s assets and importantly one Premier – Annastacia Palaszczuk – who had tagged the trip on to the end of a visit to London. She wasn’t part of the last leg of the trip to the Kamuthi solar farm, in Tamil Nadu.

Adani was, at the time, in the process of developing the Rugby Run solar farm in central Queensland, so seeing what was then the biggest solar farm in the world had some relevance to the mayors. Palaszczuk was in Mumbai to meet Gautum Adani and his senior executives, as did the eight mayors.

There is little doubt it was a propaganda mission for both sides. Adani got to show off the fact that it had high-level political support, while the mayors and the Premier could show they were solidly behind the mine. That’s why Palaszczuk’s subsequent backflips on the project have been so controversial.

I was on the flight in my role as a reporter for another publication and my trip was paid for by Adani.

That flight to Kamuthi is the one that has caused all the problems because it was an Adani charter flight and there is now a perception of a conflict of interest in Strelow’s role as mayor of Rockhampton, a city that benefits from Adani’s presence.

Strelow was without doubt the most enthusiastic supporter of Adani among the eight mayors, most of whom were also solidly behind the project. But Strelow was passionately so. At one point she even made a speech thanking Adani for its charity works in India.

There were rumblings from the other mayors about Strelow and a bit of cringeing after that speech, but she was passionate about things and Adani was promising a lot for central Queensland. If she wasn’t passionate no one would be.

But to suggest that there was any benefit for Strelow from the trip is going a bit far. It was the trip from hell. For five days there was little sleep and a lot of illness.

Delhi Belly spread through the tour group quickly and an enduring image is one of Isaac mayor Anne Baker looking like death warmed up as she walked to a connecting flight at Changi airport in Singapore.

Strelow has lost her job over a trip where there were few or no personal benefits.

As for me, I ended up in the cardiac ward on my return after collapsing from the illness in Edward St. So no, it wasn’t much fun.

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