Retiring Ballina MP Don Page’s final speech to NSW parliament, in which he pushed for his electorate to be coal-seam gas (CSG) free, has been seized on by federal MP for Richmond Justine Elliot who slammed it as ‘absolute hypocrisy’.
Mr Page, who stands down next March after a 27-year parliamentary career, urged MPs on Thursday night not to re-issue the part of a petroleum exploration licence (PEL) which covers his electorate proposed to be reliqinquished by the mining company which holds it.
Mrs Elliot was scathing of the National Party MP, saying Mr Page should be ‘ashamed of himself’ for now wanting only his electorate CSG free and that he had ‘been actively lobbying and pushing for years for the CSG industry on the north coast’.
The Labor MP, who has campaigned to keep the entire northern rivers CSG-free, said she was ‘sickened’ to hear the ‘absolute hypocrisy’ of the Nats MP on the issue.
Mr Page told parliament that ‘the great majority of people in my electorate, including me, do not see CSG as being compatible with the character of the electorate’.
‘The Ballina electorate is all about tourism, the creative industries, agriculture and horticulture, appropriate development and protecting our clean, green sustainability focus, including renewable energy,’ he said.
‘I’ve also taken the view that CSG should not proceed if there is any environmental damage to land or water as a result, and I will always hold that view.
‘When the owners of PEL 445 surrender 25 per cent of their licence, the government should not re-issue that part of it, thereby making the Ballina electorate CSG-free.’
Dart Energy holds the licence after buying it two years ago from Arrow Energy, a company jointly owned by Royal Dutch Shell and PetroChina.
The licence covers most of the northern rivers, or around 7,100 square kilometres, and adjacent to tenements held by Metgasco (under suspension) and ERM (see map).
Mr Page also told parliament in his valedictory speech that he would love to see a rail trail built on the disused Casino-Murwillumbah rail line as it would boost tourism, create jobs and improve health.
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