The head of Queensland’s mining lobby should be sacked over “disrespectful” comments made about a farmer who took his own life, the Australian Greens say.
The chief executive of the Queensland Resources Council, Michael Roche, issued a statement on Tuesday afternoon remembering George Bender, the Chinchilla farmer who vocally opposed the coal seam gas sector before his death this month.
Mr Roche claimed in his statement that Mr Bender’s suicide was being hijacked by politicians, activists and journalists.
Greens senator Larissa Waters says Mr Roche’s statement was poorly timed, given it came hours after Mr Bender’s daughter, Helen, used an appearance on the ABC’s Q&A program to condemn politicians for “not listening” to farmers.
“Instead of insulting the cause George Bender worked so hard for, Mr Roche should be urgently working to reform the way big mining companies treat landholders,” Senator Waters said.
‘Michael Roche should be fired over his disrespectful comments and his failure to immediately commit to mining companies respecting the wishes of landholders.’
Mr Roche said in his statement: “Since George’s death that public debate has been hijacked by some people – professional anti-gas activists, certain politicians and a Sydney shock jock – who are far from pure in their motives.”
The latter is most probably a reference to Sydney broadcaster Alan Jones, who wrote to Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull following Mr Bender’s death.
Some media have given these people “free rein”, Mr Roche said.
He paid his condolences to the cotton farmer’s family and said the two often sparred with each other over the phone.
Meanwhile, Mr Bender’s daughter recalled some of her father’s final words during her impassioned Q&A appeal. ”One of the last things my father said: ‘No one is listening, why are you wasting my time?'” she said.
‘I don’t think anyone is listening … I don’t think the nation is listening, I don’t think any one of you politicians care.’
* Readers seeking support and information about suicide prevention can contact Lifeline on 13 11 14