The Oscar-nominated documentary filmmaker whose film Gasland lit a fuse under the coal-seam gas (CSG) industry told a Byron Bay audience on Saturday he’s baffled as to why his latest followup is not being promoted in Australia.
Josh Fox’s Gasland Part II documentary, one of the feature-films Byron Bay International Film Festival, has recently been released in the US and is set for distribution by a cable-TV company part-owned by media mogul Rupert Murdoch.
But Fox has expressed fears his latest followup documentary, which includes an Australian perspective on the CSG boom, may not get to the much wider Australian audience expected.
During a live video link up from his US home to the Byron film festival audience which had just watched his film at the Byron Community Centre, Fox said there appeared to be a holdup with the distribution company/cable network in Australia, and he had hoped it would already have been released.
‘I’m confused and disappointed why this is so,’ he told the audience, some who audibly gasped when Rupert Murdoch’s name was mentioned in relation to the potential link to the film rights in Australia.
(Subscription television provider Foxtel, part owned by Murdoch’s News Corp empire, owns the licensed distribution rights for Gasland Part II).
Fox said the documentary arm of the giant US cable-tv network HBO had been ‘fantastic’ and the company’s reach into the homes of 40 million viewers around the US would be a boon for the Gasland documentaries.
Fox told the Byron audience the latest film highlighted how democracy was being hijacked by the powerful gas and energy industries all around the world.
He said the taking away of ordinary rights of people to protect their water and food land was the greatest risk and people should fight in every peaceful way they knew how.
Gasland Part II showed the long term impacts of the controversial practice of fracking blamed for poisoning underground water supplies and causing earthquakes and health impacts.
The film shows how just one gas well can soon become a huge barren wasteland, forcing locals off their land in the US.
It also showed how governments operate hand in glove with the CSG industry.
Fox told the Byron audience he was impressed with the local campaign by Lock the Gate when he toured Australia recently to see and film the southeast Queensland gasfields, including a segment on the impacts there as part of the latest documentary.
He also encouraged people to continue the fight in Australia by every peaceful means available, in response to a question from a member of the audience who asked why his latest film lacked footage of any direct-action civil disobedience campaigns by some against CSG.
(The anti-CSG campaigns on the northern rivers have seen some people use actions which led to arrests at Doubtful Creek near Kyogle and Glenugie near Grafton last year.)
Fox, one of the most prominent public critics of fracking, shows in his latest film how he was arrested in 2012 during a US House of Representatives subcommittee hearing on hydraulic fracturing when he attempted to videotape proceedings.
Meanwhile, at the proposed gas-drilling site at Bentley near Lismore where campaigners have set up a camp, a new protest group has joined the blockade at the proposed drilling site.
The group by the name of ‘The Front Line Against Gas’ (FLAG) issued a press statement yesterday against Metgasco’s planned tight sand gas exploration project.
FLAG, according to spokesperson Naomi Tarrant, is ‘a loose alliance of farmers, locals, landowners and business owners who have united in their opposition to gasfields in the northern rivers’.
‘We are a diverse group of residents of this region who are distressed at the impending high risk activities that Metgasco has planned,’ Ms Tarrant said.
‘Today, Monday, 3 March, an installation was found that blocks the road to Metgasco’s planned tight sand gas exploration project as the protest against Metgasco’s planned activities heats up,’ she said.
‘This unsafe industry threatens our water, our air, our health and our livelihoods with its toxic activities.
‘Metgasco wants to drill a two-kilometre deep gas well that will most likely require hydraulic fracturing or fracking, just 14 kilometres upstream from Lismore CBD.
‘With operational activities scheduled to begin any day now, someone has blocked the main drive to the planned exploration site.’
‘FLAG is prepared to use non-violent direct action to safely protest and halt any upcoming operational activities.
‘The majority of the northern rivers community is opposed to the establishment of invasive industrial gasfields and the NSW Chief Scientist’s report on health and safety risks of gas mining is still outstanding.
‘Yet despite the lack of social license and the lack of proper risk assessment, the state government and Metgasco are moving recklessly ahead,’ she said.
Campaigners have secured a legal temporary camp ground approval for up to 200 people near the site.
Richmond Valley Council and Gasfield Free Northern Rivers, acting on behalf of landholders David and John Scarrabelotti, have done a deal to formalise the campsite next to the property where Metgasco proposes to drill.
Bentley local Ross Joseph welcomed the approval, saying it ‘shows that the people of Bentley and the northern rivers are committed to protecting our land and water from gasfield industrialisation’.
‘This camp is open to people of the northern rivers who are committed to keeping our beautiful farmland gasfield free through peaceful direct action and non-violent protest,’ Mr Joseph said.
‘It’s a “working camp” for those with big hearts and cool heads who want to contribute through volunteering, donations and logistical support.
‘Local residents of Bentley and Gasfield Free Northern Rivers are especially appreciative of David and John Scarrabelotti whose land the camp is situated on.
‘This is a prime example of the generosity and dedication local farmers have shown in keeping the region gasfield free.
‘Metgasco is on notice that they have no social licence to force their drilling rig onto farmland at Bentley.
‘The community is outraged that their elected government representatives are not listening to them, and we demand that the state government steps in to stop this toxic industry,’ he said.