The comments coming from Metgasco CEO Peter Henderson against members of the community opposing the company’s plans for coal-seam gas mining have taken on an increasingly desperate tone in recent days.
Last week he called a poll on the subject conducted by the Australian Electoral Commission for Lismore City Council ‘fraudulent’.
On Tuesday he announced a bomb scare at the company’s headquarters at Casino where a handful of people were holding a peaceful protest, even though police didn’t think enough of it to ask the protesters to move.
And last Wendesday he described the group that prevented a drilling rig’s access to one of its test sites at Glenugie as ‘lawless vigilantes’ in an item on ABC radio news.
Now the police liaison person from that action, Glenugie resident and former probation officer Barry Fletcher, has approached Echonetdaily to set the record straight.
‘My wife and I are long-term residents here and live just 1,300 metres from the drilling site. To describe me, or the gathering of people, of whom Deb Whitley was one, as “lawless vigilantes” is simply wrong and offensive as well,’ Mr Fletcher says in a letter to the editor published today.
‘Mr Henderson was not an eyewitness to the events of that day. He was not in the vicinity. He has relied on hearsay and that hearsay is wrong,’ he added.
In the ABC item Mr Henderson referred to the driver of the truck to which protester Deb Whitley locked on.
‘Can you imagine how that contractor would have felt if he hadn’t been able to put his foot on the brake very quickly and Ms Whitley had been injured?’ he was quoted as saying.
But Mr Fletcher vigorously disputes that interpretation of events.
‘An interview with the contractor who drove the truck to which Deb Whitley locked on may well give a different picture. Ask him… if he intends to continue doing contract work for Metgasco after his experience on that day, which included meeting in a friendly atmosphere with some of the… ladies who brought him a cup of tea while he sat for three and more hours in his truck. I believe that they were some of the Knitting Nannas from Grafton. Hardly lawless vigilantes!’
He said that ‘Mr Henderson’s ill-chosen words do him no credit and are offensive to the people present on that day, including Deb Whitley, and by implication represents a serious criticism of the police for failing to deal with “lawless vigilantes”.’
Lock the Gate president Drew Hutton has dismissed the bomb hoax claims as ‘unsubstantiated allegations’.
‘Let [Metgasco] provide the evidence, if there is such behaviour on our part. Until they can do that these sorts of allegations should be treated with contempt,’ he told ABC radio this morning.
Last week MP Thomas George claimed that protesters at a meeting with planning minister Brad Hazzard hat spat on MPs and bureaucrats as they departed the meeting.
But Echonetdaily’s reporter at the meeting, who followed the ministers from the stage to their car, and an independent filmmaker have both confirmed that they did not observe such an incident.