Friday 20 September 2013

The Page Election Result and the Gas Mining Industry (including CSG, Tight Sands, Shale Gas etc).

The following letter to the editor was published in the Clarence Valley's The Daily Examiner, Lismore's The Northern Star and The Clarence Valley Review during the last week.

I find it very interesting that the media, Australian Petroleum Production and Exploration Association (APPEA) and certain members of the community are claiming ‘a mandate’ in support of the Gas Mining industry following the results of the recent Federal Election.

Firstly, ALL candidates for the seat of Page took a firm stance AGAINST the development of the Gas Mining industry in this electorate.

Secondly, the elected candidate – Mr Kevin Hogan has openly stated that he ‘will cross the floor’ in support of his stance AGAINST Gas Mining. I’m certain this would have ‘encouraged’ many members of the community (who are predominantly conservative anyway) to vote for him. I am sure that the electorate will keep him accountable to this statement. How is that a vote in support of the Gas Mining industry?

The community cannot compare political parties and results in this election, when the Nationals, Liberals and the newly formed Palmer United Party invest many hundreds of thousands and in some cases millions of dollars into advertising for the campaign. Smaller political parties do not have the advantage of such huge amounts of money being thrown at them to ‘win a seat’.

Mr Hogan’s party openly used advertising designed to deceive the community into voting for him. In particular his television advertisements blamed Ms Saffin for items (such as electricity price rises) which are legislated at state level. Unfortunately, not all members of the electorate are wise to which legislation is passed at what level of government.

It was very inappropriate for Mr Hogan to display signs at many polling booths stating ‘Vote Labor get CSG Mining’, again, information aimed to deceive the electorate and an out right lie! Gas Mining it is largely a state issue and legislated by the State Government, and which party currently holds power in the State? – you got it the National Liberal Coalition!

Petroleum Exploration and Production Licences may be revoked under certain circumstances by the State Government under the Petroleum Onshore Act 1994 without any encumbrance to the said Government. The National Liberal Coalition hold the reins with this issue!

Some action can be taken at Federal level, such as the recent introduction of the 'The Water Trigger’ under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation (EPBC) Act which our previous member Janelle Saffin pushed very hard to have introduced.

So, for individuals, media or APPEA to say that the reduced numbers voting for The Greens and the Stop CSG Party proves that the electorate wants Gas mining is just plain ludicrous, and yet another attempt at typical Political Propaganda and Mining Company Spin.

There has never been Social Licence to turn the Northern Rivers into gasfields, and it’s not likely there ever will be.

Lynette Eggins

Saturday 14 September 2013


According to newpaper reports, the Australian Petroleum Production and Exploration Association (APPEA) claims that coal seam gas (CSG) was a non-issue in the 7th September Federal Election in seats in places like the NSW Northern Rivers.

An exit poll was conducted by Crosby-Textor for APPEA in 20 seats.  These included Page and Richmond in NSW and eight seats in Queensland.  400 people were polled spread evenly across the 20 seats.  According to an article in the Clarence Valley's  The Daily Examiner the poll "found natural gas scored zero per cent as an influencing factor, even when respondents were prompted." 

Whatever the Crosby-Textor might say, the poll was scarcely a significant sample on which to base the assumptions about the attitudes in these 20 electorates. In the electorate of Page over 83,000 votes were cast and numbers in other electorates would have been similar. 

The article went on to say that APPEA "also analysed the results in a number of seats where CSG development had been touted as a  key election issue."

In  APPEA's media release  it was claimed that "Australians rejected (the) message" of those campaigning "heavily against gas extraction".

Their analysis of Page results was based on their claim  that both the incumbent Labor MP (Janelle Saffin) and the Greens candidate (Desley Banks) campaigned against CSG and both had swings against them. They forgot to mention that the National candidate (Kevin Hogan) who won the seat, also took a strong stand against gas mining in the Page electorate - as did the rest of the minor candidates. So the claim that the swing reflected attitudes to gas mining are spurious.  It is obviously another case of spin from the gas mining public relations machine.

Just where will these people go next with their propaganda as they attempt to manipulate public opinion ?

Monday 9 September 2013


One of the issues which received attention in the northern NSW electorate of Page well before - and then during - the federal election campaign was gas mining.  The Labor Member for Page, Janelle Saffin, and the National Party candidate, Kevin Hogan, both declared that they were opposed to coal seam gas (CSG) mining in the electorate.  Given the degree of community opposition to gas mining, it was not surprising that the candidates for both of the major parties (Labor and the Liberal-National Coalition) declared their opposition to such mining.

Despite what seemed to be a bi-partisan position on gas-mining, the Nationals chose to ignore Saffin's stated position. One of the Nationals' election posters on display outside polling booths at last Saturday's election declared:  "VOTE FOR LABOR.  GET CSG  MINING."

Election signage outside a Grafton polling booth.

The Nationals also chose to ignore the fact that Tony Abbott, leader of the Liberal-National Party Coalition, declared he supported the expansion of mining - and presumably this included gas mining. Labor Prime Minister Kevin Rudd had made a similar statement of support for mining.

It would seem that a more truthful poster would have stated:  "VOTE FOR THE NATIONALS OR LABOR. GET CSG MINING."  The fact that the Nationals ignored their own parties' position on mining perhaps illustrates how desperate they were to win the seat.  And win the seat they did - quite comfortably. Whether this deception helped their victory, it is difficult to know.

The Nationals' poster appears an even more cynical deception given statements made before the election by their colleague, Ian MacFarlane, Shadow Minister for Resources and Energy.  MacFarlane claimed that there was likely to be a gas shortage in NSW around 2016 and that his priority, if the Coalition was elected, was "to get big quantities of gas produced in NSW."

So MacFarlane was making it plain that he would be pushing for the expansion of gas-mining in NSW.  He did not specify which, if any areas, he had in mind, but it is likely that Page, which lies in the Clarence-Moreton Basin, would be targetted.

In making the claim about shortages MacFarlane is following the lead of State Coalition Ministers who are using the pretext of an imminent shortage to push their gas-mining agenda.  This claim is a furphy because NSW has access to the gas reserves in Bass Strait which are projected to last for many more years.  The gas that the mining companies want to extract in NSW is primarily for the lucrative export market – not for domestic consumption.

So, now that the Coalition is in Government and Kevin Hogan is the Member for Page, what will happen  if the Coalition pushes for further gas exploration and the establishment of gasfields in Page?  Will our new MP stand up to his Government and the rapacious mining companies? Will he support the community which elected him ?  It will be very interesting to see how he meets this challenge if it arises.

And a final note on Mr Hogan's position.  His local National Party State MP colleagues - Chris Gulaptis in Clarence, Thomas George in Lismore and Don Page in Ballina  - all support CSG mining.  How soon will Mr Hogan change his views on CSG mining now that he has won the seat of Page ?

Sunday 1 September 2013


The major parties - Australian Labor Party and the Liberal-National Party Coalition -  in the campaign leading to the federal election on September 7 have largely avoided discussion of the environment.  Should we then we assume that the natural environment, on which we humans all rely for the services it provides, is doing well? Or is it simply a case of "it's all too hard"?

Despite the lack of general discussion on the environment, the major parties have policies which will impact on the environment.
For example both major parties have announced that they intend to encourage mining development. 

Do they want to see more coal mines?  Is this wise – both from an environmental and economic aspect?  We should be phasing out the use of coal as a fuel because of its carbon emissions and the other pollutants it produces.  It is quite obvious that, while they are still burning huge quantities of coal, countries such as China, which buy our coal, are steadily moving to cleaner energy sources.

We should also be very cautious about investing in the infrastucture to support coal-mining and its export.  Spending billions on port development could well be an enormous waste of money given that coal is approaching its use-by date. 
Does their desire to see more mines mean both the ALP and the Coalition would be pushing for the expansion of gas mining in the mistaken belief that it is much more "greenhouse-friendly" than coal?   The Northern Rivers could well be one of the areas affected if this is the case.  While in the Page electorate both Janelle Saffin and her major challenger Kevin Hogan have declared they are opposed to gas mining in their electorate, it is unlikely that their views will be considered important if their party decides it wants gas mining expedited here.

On climate change in general both parties could do much more.  "Direct Action", the Coalition replacement for the carbon tax which they intend to scrap, is vague and there are serious doubts about whether it can achieve the emissions reduction to which the party committed. There are also questions about the cost of this policy.  The ALP, with its focus during the election campaign on reducing electricity costs, would seem to have lost the plot about the reason for taxing emissions. 

A draft of the latest report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change leaked recently stated that the consequences of greenhouse gas emissions "at or above current rates" are that the world is likely to become 5 degrees hotter.  Moreover there is a 95% likelihood that human greenhouse gas emissions are driving the rise in extreme weather events now being observed around the world. This means that there should be a sense of urgency about effective action on emissions reduction.  Neither major party indicates that this major environmental problem is in any way urgent.

Other policies which have not been discussed above and which have environmental implications include transport, biodiversity protection, fuel subsidies, renewable energy and environmental law. 

Ignoring the natural environment and its many problems will not make those problems go away. Future governments will be forced into action whether they like it or not.