LAST Thursday, I received a 'letter to the editor' from NSW Resources and Energy Minister Chris Harcher. I have since learned it was widely distributed to newspapers around the state. In it, he attacks the NSW Farmers Association for its involvement with the anti-CSG rally being organised outside Parliament.
His criticism was essentially about the company the farmers are now keeping: in particular activist group GetUp and the Stop CSG Illawarra group, which he said were affiliated with the Socialist Alliance.
"A disturbing marriage... these protest groups will soon turn on NSW farmers," Mr Harcher said.
The attacks continued on Friday, when Planning Minister Brad Hazzard accused NSW Farmers (the peak body for farmers in this state) of being "almost irrelevant", when he was interviewed on ABC Radio.
The anti-CSG rally in Sydney on Tuesday attracted about 8000 people and strengthened the ties that have been formed around this issue between farming and environment groups. For these two government ministers to publicly offload on the NSW Farmers, because it had extended its network was bizarre to say the least, and a disturbing development in the politics of CSG.
The Nationals have copped a lot of flack for not standing up to their Liberal party colleagues and for failing to deliver on a pre-election promise to protect strategic agricultural land from CSG mining. (Although, apparently Nationals leader Andrew Stoner told the gathered crowd on Tuesday they would.)
The government now has before it the recommendations of the inquiry they set up to investigate the emerging CSG industry.
The inquiry has recommended the brakes be put on; that no new production licences be issued until a whole new regulatory framework is developed and implemented.
I hope Barry O'Farrell and his bad-mouthing ministers are listening.
I hope they got the message from the 8000 visitors that stood shouting, "City and country united we stand. Protect our water, protect our land" outside their windows on Tuesday.
What they choose to do now will be a defining moment for this government.
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