Story & photos Melissa Hargraves
A delayed plane didn’t deter a few hundred anti-CSG protesters waiting for Thomas George MP to return to Lismore yesterday. Mr George did eventually have to address the crowd after word hit the street he had arrived through the back door.
Whilst waiting for his arrival, the crowd milled out the front of his Carrington Street, Lismore office and heard a few speakers shed some truths about the industry. This rally was on the back end of hearing the moratorium on CSG mining had been defeated in parliament by a close count, which added more urgency to the cause.
The ‘Toot if you oppose CSG’ signs that were so successful in Casino on Wednesday came out again, which allowed many drive-by protesters the opportunity to voice their disapproval. Most present hand wrote letters to Mr George whilst at the rally, articulating their concerns. The crowd then filed non-violently into the MPs counter and hand-delivered their letters.
Mr George began his address by saying that ‘he makes no apology for the plane delay’, as many thought this was an evasive act. He continued to insinuate that his ‘staff received abuse over this’. The majority of the action was filmed and overseen by non-violent activists as many know that this can derail any cause. Frustrations were definitely shown to the staff and they could have possibly been overwhelmed by so many letters. However, the majority of those at the rally have tried writing letters to Mr George before and they all received the same generic reply which didn’t address their concerns.
When pressed to indicate his position on CSG mining in the Northern Rivers, Mr George responded, ‘I am 100 per cent behind what our government has put out there as a discussion paper. That gives you the opportunity that if you don’t agree with it, you can put submissions into it. That is out until the very beginning of May, 2012.’
The crowd kept pushing for him to speak directly about their concerns about CSG mining. He informed us that ‘our government has not issued one CSG licence’. This set the crowd off, as many there have seen footage and photos of polluted holding ponds in the Casino area. The technicality that is obviously evident here does not deny the fact that there is already toxic activity happening.
Mr George then invited a few at the rally inside the doorway to his offices to talk as the crowd were very restless. One of those was Jan Buckman, a local senior who is also a long-term Nationals voter. She told Thomas that her ‘Vote for Thomas George’ placard had been handed over at the counter earlier on. Jan informed Echonetdaily Mr George asked her, ‘this issue had been going on for three years, why weren’t you protesting then?’ She commented that she ‘only found out about CSG mining one year ago and has been working to stop it ever since!’
Ms Buckman continued, ‘Thomas thought I was just blaming him, but it is the whole government I am blaming for allowing this industry to happen in our country’.