I attended the Ballina coal-seam gas education awareness forum on 31 July, and was absolutely astounded that only two Ballina Shire councillors were in attendance – Cr Jeff Johnson, who was MC, and Cr Sue Meehan, who was in the audience.
This was an exceptional opportunity to find out all about the effects of CSG, yet the Ballina council did not even send its own planning or executive staff along, nor did it endorse its councillors to attend.
I did, however, see the council’s strategic planner, who said he was there in his own right as a private individual. He then got up and moved to the opposite end of the auditorium so I could not speak with him further.
What a dreadfully ‘poor show’ on behalf of Ballina Council and its elected representatives.
I urge all voters to find out why this forum (put on by The Ballina Environment Society and The Greens) was boycotted in this way.
We need councillors from September onwards who will put politics aside and learn to understand the real issues to do with mining and CSG so our farmland can be preserved as a food source for future generations. We need our aquifers preserved, because there is no life without water.
We don’t need councillors who know it all because they get up at 4am each day and listen to the ABC news. We need councillors like Jenny Dowell and Simon Clough who get out among the people and find out first hand the devastation the mining industry is causing.
Some of the Ballina councillors tendered apologies to the Ballina forum because they were listening to the Labor Party speaker, Janelle Saffin MP, at the Alstonville Chamber of Commerce instead. One of those councillors has even declared a pecuniary interest in a coal-seam gas mining company!
But wasn’t it Labor that got us into this terrible mess over CSG and open cut mining? Wasn’t it Labor that issued the mining rights to the overseas multinationals? And wasn’t it the Nationals who blame Labor, yet have done nothing to curb the devastation the mining industry is causing in rural Australia.
Family life is being fragmented by husbands working in the mines as FIFOs for three weeks straight with a week off at home. Sure, they earn big money – some as high as $20,000 a month as night-time equipment refuellers! But money isn’t everything.
Our local builders are going broke, our tradesmen are non-existent because they are working in the mines, and the resultant flow-on effect is going to take decades to recover.
At the next election, vote for councillors who have made a positive effort to understand the effects of CSG and open-cut coal mining, not those who run away with poor excuses.