Re:  articles in The Land, Jan 10, 2013
1. The Land says – Hoax makes headlines but does it help? (p.16);
2. Burke gets final say (p.8);
3. Anti-mining hoax targets Whitehaven (p.8);
4. Looking past spin for substance (p.10)

Coal Seam Gas (CSG) mining is certainly: “…an issue on which farmers and green groups share a lot of common ground.” (1.).  You go on to say: “If self-described environmentalists continue irrational and extreme actions, the common ground they share with farmers on this issue is likely to fast diminish”.

Well, I’m a farmer, and I don’t agree.

First, in a large group, there will always be those who behave in ways others dislike.  However, they still share “common ground” with the group.  In this case, the large group includes everyone who is concerned about various aspects of the Australian mining industry.  People react in a variety of ways when they are threatened.  Our environment is “common ground” for us all.  In this case, Whitehaven Coal is threatening our “common ground”.  If Whitehaven’s proposed mine goes ahead, it will destroy “…half of the Leard State Forest, which contains more than 1500 hectares of Box Gum Woodland – listed as a critically endangered ecological community… and… home to 34 threatened species…” (2.).

Second, let’s examine the “irrational and extreme actions” to which you refer.  Phil Laird and his family have farmed near the Leard State Forest for 160 years.  He is a farmer who is directly threatened by Whitehaven’s proposed mine.  Speaking about Jonathan Moylan’s actions, Mr Laird says:

“My private view is that anything that brings attention to this issue is to be applauded.” (3.)

Also, you say:

“the Australian Petroleum Production and Exploration Association (APPEA) has described appalling behaviour in the Northern Rivers: bomb threats, spitting and jostling at forums, an alleged threat to a gas worker’s life…” (1.)

The identity of the person who made the alleged bomb threat has not been determined, and the other assertions have not been proven.  Metgasco has made many assertions in our local media lately, which have not been proved.  For example: “seismic equipment was stolen” during the tests at Casino last November, and the offenders were “photographed”.  The photos have not been released to the media.

In his column: From the Back Paddock, Mal Peters writes:

“My Irish blood – infused with a passion to defend the underdog – boils when I see current day politicians masquerading as defenders of farmers’ interests but mouthing the words of their spin doctors …” (4.)

Remember, mining companies employ “spin doctors” too.  Please think twice before using their descriptions as examples of “irrational and extreme actions”.

You state: “…farmers can’t afford their legitimate concerns to be written off by the mining sector and the State government”.  Unfortunately, this has already happened.  As a result, most Australians are now threatened by the activities of coal and gas companies.  For farmers: the rural sector’s export income has decreased by around $15 billion, because of the way the mining boom has been managed (Mining’s Collateral Damage, The Land, 15/11/12).  For other Australians, gas prices are set to rise.  For example: “Analysts expect east coast gas prices to double or triple as LNG plants worth $70 billion being built to export coal-seam gas through Gladstone rapidly quadruple east coast gas demand.” (Incitec’s Fazzino warns on damage from gas prices, The Australian, 14/11/12)

Phil Laird and Mal Peters are two farmers who appear to be part of a large group who have realised that the time for being worried about whether one is being tainted by associating with “extremists” is over.  The time for action has arrived.

The most effective action would be to halt all NEW mining projects, while we have a national debate, followed by a referendum on mining.  Lismore City Council organised a survey of residents about CSG, as part of our last local government election.  Over 86% of residents (including a large proportion of farmers) voted against CSG mining in its current form.  What would the rest of the country say, if they were given a chance to speak?  Perhaps then people like Jonathan Moylan wouldn’t have to put themselves on the line for us.

Let’s turn our attention away from individuals (“are they really farmers?”, “are they extremists?”), to the real question, which is: “how do Australians want mining to be carried out in Australia?”

Jessica Lowe
Imogen’s Farm, Whian Whian

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