Chris Dobney & Luis Feliu
Federal local ALP members Justine Elliot and Janelle Saffin will today pose for a media shoot outside Lismore Post Office with a 12,000 strong petition they have collected to go to state parliament opposing coal seam gas mining in the northern rivers.
Ms Elliot told media this morning that the state remained ‘the main consent authority’ for CSG developments and the magic number of 10,000 signatures meant the issue would have to be debated in state parliament.
But yesterday, the EDO (formerly the Environmental Defenders Office) issued a report indicating that the federal government in fact has a wide range of powers to control coal and CSG mining.
The report identifies nine major reforms that could be implemented at a federal level.
- passing a new national law to protect food-producing land from coal and gas mining and give farmers the right to reject mining on their land
- creating a national environmental protection authority and a new clean air and water act to protect human health and water resources, and
- moving amendments to the Customs Act to prohibit exports of coal and gas from areas important to the protection of existing Australian industries, significant natural resources and communities.
According to Lock the Gate Tweed spokesperson Michael McNamara, ‘the federal government and opposition have been trying to pass the buck on coal and unconventional gas mining to state governments, stating that they have no power to act’.
‘Well, the buck stops here, with this report by the EDO confirming that the federal parliament has wide powers to act on coal and gas mining.’
He added that ‘the loopholes and laissez-faire approach taken by state governments makes federal intervention an urgent priority’.
But Page MP Janelle Saffin told Echonetdaily this morning that anti-CSG campaigners should keep the pressure on the state government ‘because they can stop it dead, this minute, this day’.
Ms Saffin said the coalition ‘has the power to stop CSG right now’ and that at a federal level, she had worked with Richmond MP Justine Elliot to have the ‘water trigger’ intervention amendment introduced under federal legislation.
‘We’re always looking for opportunities to stop CSG, but in the end the state government can stop it dead,’ she said.
Mrs Elliot echoed Ms Saffin’s comments, telling Echonetdaily that ‘first and foremost it is the state’s responsibility to regulate CSG’ and ‘we’ve done all we can by pushing for the water trigger and that’s why we’re sending this petition to the state’.
The EDO report follows a Lock the Gate Alliance analysis of party positions on CSG and coal mining, released last week, which according to Mr McNamara ‘showed that Labor, Liberals and Nationals were all failing to take reasonable action’.
‘With the only leadership in parliament coming from the minor parties and independents, we’re calling on all federal politicians and candidates to now step up to the plate, and commit to national law reforms to protect farming communities, public health, water resources and Australian industries.’
See the Echo’s full election coverage on the page Election 2013