The National Party is letterboxing the Ballina electorate with a brochure in which it claims to have protected the region from coal seam gas.
The brochure takes the credit for Dart Energy’s decision to hand back most of its PEL 445 in the Ballina electorate when the coalition renewed its licence in December.
The massive PEL 445, which was renewed by mining minister Anthony Roberts, still takes in vast chunks of the Lismore and Tweed electorates, both of which currently have sitting National Party MPs.
But Greens Ballina candidate Tamara Smith says the brochure shows that the Nationals are ‘clearly worried’ about their numbers in Ballina, a seat it has ‘always taken for granted’.
And her comments are borne out by ABC election analyst Antony Green, who has predicted on his blog that the Nationals could lose all three far north coast seats.
Smoke and mirrors
Gasfield Free Northern Rivers has refuted the Nationals’ claim and said its north coast candidates have failed to ‘explain clearly that their ‘gas plan’ does not protect the region from gasfield development.
The group has accused the National Party of indulging in ‘smoke and mirrors’ tactics over the issue.
‘The Nationals are trying to pull the wool over our eyes. We’ve seen it time and time again: election hopefuls making empty promises, spinning the truth, and blaming the other party,’ said Gasfield Free Northern Rivers’ regional coordinator, Elly Bird.
‘The National Party’s current northern rivers MPs have clearly shown they won’t represent our community in Sydney. Their electioneering is nothing but spin, it’s smoke and mirrors.
‘The truth is the Nationals just aren’t willing to go to the same lengths as the Greens, Labor and independents are. We’re tired of hearing that it’s all Labor’s fault. We want to know exactly what [the Nationals] are going to do to protect the northern rivers from invasive gasfields.’
‘They say they have removed the licence that covers Ballina and Byron shires, but they don’t say that licence had expired in 2013. When a licence expires, if there hasn’t been any activity, part of the licence has to be relinquished by the company.
‘They say they’ll buy back the licences – but won’t admit that will only happen if companies willingly hand them in.
‘They say they won’t support CSG in areas where it isn’t appropriate – but they won’t say the northern rivers is one of those areas.
‘We’ve given Kris Beavis, Chris Gulaptis, Thomas George and Geoff Provest repeated opportunities to spell it out for us in writing – to let the voters know exactly where they stand, and they haven’t even shown us the courtesy of responding.
In a profile for Echonetdaily’s soon-to-be-launched election feature, Mr Beavis wrote, ‘I’m not afraid to say I don’t want CSG. And I’m going to take that community message to Parliament to ensure that happens. He added, ‘it’s hot air at election time.’
But Ballina ALP candidate Paul Spooner told Echonetdaily that Nationals’ track record on CSG showed a different story.
‘The Nationals renewed [most of] the licences in 2012 and Dart Energy’s licence was renewed last year, so any attempt to paint themselves as anti-CSG is a joke,’ he said.
‘The Nationals have a plan for CSG expansion, not reduction. Labor on the other hand is very clear: no CSG on the north coast and a moratorium across the state until the chief scientist’s recommendations are implemented,’ Mr Spooner added.
At a whistlestop tour to the region Labor leader Luke Foley reaffirmed the party would declare the northern rivers CSG-free.
Mr Foley made the announcement together with Country Labor Candidates Isaac Smith (Lismore), Paul Spooner (Ballina) and Ron Goodman (Tweed) during a visit to a farm in Myocum.
He said that if elected Labor will declare a total ban on CSG and unconventional gas mining throughout the entire Northern Rivers region – encompassing the local government areas of the Ballina, Clarence Valley, Byron, and Kyogle Shires, Lismore City, Tweed Shire and Richmond Valley.
‘The risks CSG poses to the natural assets of the northern rivers are unacceptable, Mr Foley said
‘Today I met with a farmer whose business and livelihood depends on the northern rivers’ reputation as a clean, green environment – a brand that international consumers of the region’s milk, beef and sugar cane trust. I won’t allow that to be threatened by risky CSG activities.
‘The CSG industry will never have a place in the northern rivers under a Labor government,’ Mr Foley said.
Greens Ballina candidate Tamara Smith says the tactic indicates ‘they’re obviously very worried with their numbers.’
‘Apparently [ABC election analyst] Anthony Green is saying that the Nats are in trouble in the seat of Ballina. I guess that just confirms it. It just shows how used they are to just rolling in and doing nothing in a safe seat,’ she told Echonetdaily.
‘A passive, soft statement like ‘we don’t want’ is different to doing something on the floor of parliament.
‘The Greens have done that but neither of those two parties have done anything on the floor of parliament.’
Nats in trouble
Antony Green has indeed indicated he believes that National Party is in trouble in Ballina
The north coast National Party seats of Ballina, Lismore and Tweed all sit on margins of more than 21 per cent. All would be Labor held based on the results of the 2013 federal election and will be seats to watch despite being well beyond the uniform swing,’ he wrote on his blog on Tuesday.
‘The National Party will also face challenges from idependents and anti-CSG campaigners in a string of seats,’ Mr Green added.