Last night a group of Knitting Nannas camped out in front of Thomas George’s office demanding to know if the coalition government had succeeded in buying back the controversial PEL 445 CSG licence, to no avail.
A PEL buyback scheme was announced by the coalition government in the dying days of this year’s election campaign, at which time all three of its northern rivers seats were in doubt as a result community concerns about CSG.
Just days before the election, the Lismore MP announced the controversial licence – which covers much of his electorate – was a target of the hastily implemented scheme.
That scheme lapsed at midnight last night.
Nanna Clare Twomey, who was one of the women who braved the cold to make the point, said that she was disappointed Mr George ‘didn’t make the effort’ to come and speak to us’.
‘Just eight days before the March 28 election, Mr George told us he had demanded the NSW Government block the sale of the PEL 445 CSG exploration licence and buy the licence back,’ she said.
The Nannas say Mr George’s narrow win in the election came on the back of this promise.
‘Nannas Know a promise must be kept,’ said Nanna Clare. ‘And we Nannas get cranky over broken promises.’
‘Mr George told us in an electorate letter that politicians should be held accountable for the promises they make at election time. So the Nannas are making sure he hasn’t forgot his PEL445 promise,’ she said.
At that time Greens challenger Adam Guise, who missed taking the seat buy a handful of votes, described the announcement as a ‘con’.
‘This petroleum licence was renewed by the government just two weeks after they released their Gas Plan [in December] last year. They missed the opportunity then to do what their constituents demand, and they’re missing it again now,’ Mr Guise said at the time.
The government then missed a second chance to buy back the PEL when Dart Energy sold it to CSG mining supplier AJ Lucas just weeks before the March election.
Mr George told ABC radio the energy minister could extend the scheme to include the purchase.
‘He still has that discretion to extend it for as long as he likes or to reintroduce it to be able to not only buy back PEL 445 but there are other PELs being negotiated at present and I’m sure the minister will continue to use that program to buy back the PELs that are available to be purchased,’ he told ABC radio this morning.
But Nanna Clare Twomey told Echonetdaily, ‘We would love to think he would do that. I’m really a little bit disappointed at the moment that it seems he hasn’t done what he said he would do.’
‘I’m not quite sure the technicality he’s dancing around at the moment but I’m going to look into it further.’
CSG Free Northern Rivers spokesperson Dean Draper, who was an honourary Nana for the night, told Echonetdaily, ‘the main thing we’re after is some certainty. This has been going on for so long now and the community is uncertain what’s happening’.
‘We need Mr George and the deputy premier Troy Grant to tell us exactly what’s going on, not only with PEL 445 but with the other PELs in the region – particularly Metgasco’s. They have about five more PELs, which together cover most of the northern rivers.
‘The region as a whole needs to be protected,’ Mr Draper said.