Shadow minister for the north coast, Walt Secord, has told Parliament that Lismore MP Thomas George has a conflict of interest over his son Stuart’s employment with Metgasco.
Mr Secord was speaking on Wednesday about proposed government changes that would see the burning of forest biomass counted as ‘green’ energy.
But in a wide-ranging speech that took in the record of the north coast communities as leaders in environmental awareness and resistance against widespread logging and land-clearing, he also raised the current struggle against Metgasco’s plans at Bentley.
‘ABC Radio North Coast and the Byron Shire Echo have been at the forefront of reporting the community’s anger about the Liberal-Nationals state government’s environmental failures,’ he said.
The north coast has a strong environmental movement, led by dedicated community groups such as Lock the Gate and the North East Forest Alliance. As recently as 30 April Dailan Pugh, who is a spokesperson for the North East Forest Alliance, directly raised with me his organisation’s concerns about the Liberal-Nationals’ plans on biomass,’ he continued.
‘We had a lengthy discussion on the impact of the biomass regulation when I visited the Bentley Blockade on the north coast to show my solidarity against unconventional gas. Dailan Pugh was among the hundreds of concerned citizens at the community-based protest.’
He continued he speech with support for the Bentley farmers and land protectors.
‘At that protest I was accompanied by the federal member for Richmond, Justine Elliot, and Labor’s candidate for the Tweed, Ron Goodman. Justine Elliot and Ron Goodman have been at the forefront of the fight against coal seam gas expansion on the north coast. I was pleased to express my public support for the locals, homemakers and farmers at the Bentley Blockade. I saw them again today at state Parliament.
‘They are alarmed by the prospect of the Baird government using police officers to remove lawful protesters from the site on behalf of Metgasco. Hard-working police should not be the meat in the sandwich,’ he said
But he next turned his attention to Mr George.
‘Police should be tackling real criminals rather than arresting lawful protesters on behalf of a commercial company. More importantly, a glaring conflict of interest was highlighted last night by Channel 7. It involved Lismore Nationals member of parliament and deputy speaker, Thomas George – a fierce opponent of the Bentley Blockade.
‘It turns out that his son Stuart George is the community relations manager for Metgasco. This is the bloke who does spin for Metgasco.’
The National Party’s Rick Colless objected to the statement in a point of order, saying if Mr Secord wanted to ‘move a motion against a member of Parliament’ he should do so ‘by way of substantive motion’.
The Lennox Head-based Liberal MLC Catherine Cusack then chimed in, asking assistant president Fred Nile ‘to order the member to withdraw that disgraceful smear’.
Having put his statement on the record, Mr Secord went on to comment the work of Team Koala and Friends of the Koala, raising the spectre of forests being razed to fire electricity generators.
‘North coast communities know that in the 1960s New South Wales communities were told that only waste products would be burnt by the timber industry but by the 1990s 90 per cent of the timber logged on the New South Wales north and south coasts went into the chipper.
‘They know that this regulation would once again be the thin end of the wedge. I must express my disappointment at the lack of representation and leadership by north coast National Party parliamentarians on this matter,’ Mr Secord said.