Slap bang in the middle of Australia’s most iconic country music festival, and slap bang in the middle of town, the just as iconic Knitting Nannas Against Gas (KNAG) created a stir yesterday as they staged an event of their own for the Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce on his home turf.
As thousands lined the streets of Tamworth for the annual Country Music Festival, members and supporters of KNAG lined the street outside Australia’s 2IC’s hometown office in Peel Street and sat down for a yarn.
KNAGs from all around the countryside converged, aglow in their yellow splendour, from loops as far as Lismore, Drake, Gloucester, Taree, Sydney and Elands – with one purpose in mind: to support the New England loop in their quest to send a strong and clear message to Barnaby Joyce about his role in office and his duty of care to farming, indigenous cultures, our wilderness areas and future generations.
The area in Minister Joyce’s electorate around Tamworth is under direct threat from gas and coal mining and the Nannas have come together to highlight this to the member for New England.
The Knitting Nannas say the threat to the Great Artesian Basin from both coal and gas mining is enormous and irreparable and they are calling on Minister Joyce to take immediate federal action to protect this important resource from further damage.
To this end, the Nannas did sit and knit outside the minister’s office for almost four hours after asking for an appointment to meet with the man himself. Strangely, though the country’s biggest country music festival was right on his doorstep, in his home town, Mr Joyce was not in the office.
Every year Nannas spend a small fortune travelling and educating communities about what they see as vandals who are laying waste to the country, but they believe it’s a small price to pay for a liveable future for their kiddies and grandkiddies.
They want to see fossil fuels phased out in favour of renewable energy and immediate action on climate change.
New England Nanna Pat Schultz wanted to tell Mr Joyce she had big plans for her future. ‘Minister, we want to be knitting lots of booties for our grandkiddies well into the future,’ she said. ‘Our current path needs to change in order for that to happen.’
The Nannas also wanted to speak to M Joyce about a recently released peer-reviewed paper written by Queensland doctor Geralyn McCarron, who raised a red flag to gasfield air pollution west of Brisbane and the correlation between increased hospital admissions.
The study, Air Pollution and human health hazards: a compilation of air toxins acknowledged by the gas industry in Queensland’s Darling Downs was published online January 8, 2018 in the International Journal of Environmental Studies.
Dr McCarron reports that local hospital admissions for acute circulatory and respiratory diseases have markedly jumped between 2007 and 2014, when CSG emissions had substantially increased.
‘Acute circulatory admissions increased 133% and acute respiratory admissions increased 142%,’ said Dr McCarron in her report.
Tamworth resident and KNAG, Tania Marshall hopes that Minister Joyce reads the report and listens to the science. ‘Minister, are you willing to sacrifice your constituents to the same fate as what has been documented by Dr McCarron on the Western Darling Downs?’
These and other questions are burning on KNAG lips.
A copy of the report was delivered to Minister Joyce and the New England North West Nannas have requested an appointment to discuss it with him.