Revelations that the Liberal-Nationals state government has been promoting the north coast to potential CSG investors has sparked a strong reaction from Labor and the Greens, despite an admission it was a departmental stuff-up.
Labor’s candidate for page Janelle Saffin says the Nationals have been ‘caught red handed saying one thing but doing something completely different’.
And the Greens candidate for Richmond Dawn Walker says the Nationals had ‘double crossed’ the northern rivers, and excuses of a stuff-up didn’t wear as it continued a trend of so-called ‘mistakes’.
But the Nationals’ Clarence MP Chris Gulaptis was quick to tell media that a state energy department brochure sent to overseas investors was made by mistake, and the government had issued a press release correcting it.
‘There will absolutely be no further petroleum or gas exploration or production on the northern rivers, full stop,’ Mr Gulaptis told the ABC this morning.
Throughout late last year, Mr Gulaptis and other north coast National MPs had claimed they had secured a CSG-free northern rivers, after a huge community campaign against CSG forced the government’s hand to buy out contentious licences.
Ms Saffin was blunt, saying the revelation despite the denial had ‘left the Nationals credentials in tatters’ and they ‘could no longer pretend that they supported a CSG-free region,when they have a state Nationals minister’s department promoting our area to investors to mine CSG’.
‘This comes on top of their state planning document that mapped and marked the northern rivers area as a CSG mining zone,’ she said.
‘It seems they are just biding their time believing that they can have CSG mining happen here, at some stage, the Nationals have been caught red handed – saying one thing but doing something completely different,’ Ms Saffin said.
Ms Walker said Nationals MPs Thomas George (Lismore) and north coast MLC Ben Franklin had issued media releases late last year which claimed credit for ‘getting rid’ of’ CSG in the region.
‘However, the XplorPak 2016 – showcasing NSW to international investors promotes coal seam gas resources in the Clarence-Morton Basin (situated in the northern rivers) as having “very good potential” and there being “potential for commercial opportunities”’, she said.
‘This comes after the potential for CSG was included in the Draft North Coast Regional Plan.
‘We’ve been double-crossed by the Nationals who have been pushing the potential for coal seam gas in the northern rivers to international investors, despite their promise that the northern rivers would be CSG-free.
‘If the government was genuine about protecting the northern rivers, then why was it included in this international investment package?
‘This revelation that coal seam gas is still on the government’s agenda will put CSG front and centre in this federal election campaign,’ Ms Walker said.
Mr Gulaptis told the ABC the coalition government had spent more than $20 million buying back CSG licences, emphasising there would be no more CSG industry on the north coast.
But Ms Saffin said ‘no spin can cover up this deception. You simply can’t just say oh sorry, I overlooked the State Planning documents and now a international investor document and have us believe you support a CSG-free region’.
‘Both documents support the development of new CSG mines,’ she said.
‘I advocated in the Federal Parliamentary Labor Party for take action to protect our water and led a working group on the matter.
‘This work resulted in the water trigger legislation for CSG and large coal mining operations that the current Liberal-Nationals Federal government has weakened.’
Ms Walker said that last year’s state election was ‘a referendum on coal seam gas and as a result the Greens took the seat of Ballina from the Nationals, it appears they still haven’t learnt their lesson’.
‘Since 2010 the gas industry has given more than $1.5 million in donations to Labor and more than $2 million to the Liberal and Nationals.
‘Only The Greens aren’t beholden to big donors and corporate interests. The Greens can be trusted to put land, water, climate and communities ahead of the big mining companies.’
The Clarence-Morton Basin extends over two key marginal seats: Page held by the Nationals by 2.5 per cent, and Richmond held by Labor by three per cent.
More stories on the 2016 federal election
The record vote by the Greens in Saturday’s federal election in Richmond has encouraged candidate Dawn Walker Greens to keep the ‘Green’ momentum going across the northern rivers.
My fearless prediction is that the coalition will end up with between 76 to 78 seats in the House of Representatives, a thin but decisive majority. But this is not the way it was meant to be.
Nearly three years ago, on the eve of the last Federal election, this web site warned that a Tony Abbott-led Coalition government presented a grim outlook for clean energy and climate change, and we warned too that it could be even worse than most people feared.
Incumbent northern rivers MPs Kevin Hogan (Page, Nationals) and Justine Elliot (Richmond, Labor) have retained their seats after a knife-edge federal election result which could see a hung parliament.
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