Ed's note - Last week we ran a story on Page 3 about Page MP Janelle Saffin writing to the North Coast Nationals (Don Page, Thomas George and Chris Gulaptis) asking them to stand up to Premier Barry O'Farrell on coal seam gas, as per the wishes of their constituents. The Echo sought a response from Don Page and Thomas George and received a written response from Don Page minutes after going to press. Here is his response in full...
The Don responds
WE DID receive a letter from Janelle Saffin expressing her views on CSG. She said she was happy to meet, but did not propose a place, date or time. We are more than happy to meet with her although we do not share her most recent position on CSG.
Indeed, we believe her tactics were always part of a stunt, not based on science, but about her re-election campaign. Prior to the Liberals and Nationals coming into office, State Labor (Ms Saffin's party) had granted CSG licences to over 24% of the state, with virtually no regulations or protections. The Liberals and Nationals government placed a stay on the granting and renewal of any new licences as we worked to implement strict new controls regulating the industry.
A package of 27 stringent controls is now in place, making the CSG industry in NSW the most heavily regulated of anywhere in Australia. Properly regulated CSG together with renewables will form part of an integrated energy policy for NSW into the future. Importantly, two codes of practice covering both exploration and mining, together with 25 other safeguards, protect ground water, surface water and the environment generally. Those codes of practice have been endorsed by the chief scientist, Dr Mary O'Kane, and an independent scientific committee.
The NSW Government in the meantime has banned the use of all BTEX chemicals and has created 40 on-the-ground staff to ensure the codes of practice are followed. We put our faith in scientific-based processes, not the words of a backbencher in a dying Federal Government. This is the same Federal Government that (last week) approved CSG mining at Gloucester.
Don Page MP,
Member for Ballina
and Thomas George MP,
Member for Lismore
Propaganda for gullible
IN RESPONSE to the constant lies and denials from the likes of Metgasco, mining companies and State Government MPs, I'd like to write my own letter using their tactics.
Through much research and testing using government guidelines, we have discovered the many benefits of asbestos.
It just about cures everything from aging to cancer to hair loss, sagging breasts and ingrown toenails.
By manufacturing this wonder material, we will create many new jobs and economic benefits for the regions hosting the asbestos mines and manufacturing factories.
If you're lucky enough to have an asbestos manufacturing plant or mine in your community then you can expect better skin, stronger immune systems and a reduction of cancer-related illness.
Now ... how many times should I repeat this letter before I persuade you all?
If you're gullible enough to believe this propaganda then there's not much hope.
Cooking for the future
IN RESPONSE to Peter Toedter's letter on biochar (Echo, January 31).
I believe Mr Toedter has missed a couple of critical dynamics concerning the modern thermal conversion of biomass.
In the simplest home-brewed biochar, a Top Lite Up Draft (TLUD) cook stove the mixtures of syn-gas and hydrocarbon tar and oils are flared cleanly, virtually no soot or aerosols. Replacing "three rocks and a pot" across India and Africa which produces profound respiratory health benefits, utilising biomass other than trees.
Google "Pro-Natura" or the African Christian Organization Network (ACON) to read about the thousands of African farms elevated from subsistence farmers to profitable farmers over four years.
Yes, the CO2 emissions do warm the climate; however, you must follow the path of that same biomass carbon if it were left to rot producing mostly CH4, a 23 times more powerful greenhouse gas. Gasification/pyrolysis conserves about one third of the carbon, locked into char for soils. Activated carbon (AC) costs $4-5 per pound. Biochar has been found to do some of the jobs now being done by AC at a fraction of the cost. Some pyrolysis companies find a tertiary income stream by reactivating spent AC for just $0.42 per pound. Yes, the wood vinegar/acid industry was supplanted by cheap fossil feed stocks. The new bio-refining industries utilising closed loop pyrolysis and gasification systems, high temperature compression and pyro/catalytic systems for tank-ready fuels with no significant emissions. Some vent CO2 emissions into greenhouses to even keep that carbon in living cycle, the char fostering the living soil cycle.
The more carbon is recycled into life's systems the overall entropy of the system is reduced. Like death and taxes, entropy cannot be avoided, but biochar certainly slows it down, provides new eddies of life that the carbon has to make oxbows around. Biochar provides a major tool to bring this soil life to a new level of husbandry by farmers.
Charmaster Dolph Cooke
THIS letter is in answer to Rob Andrews (Echo, February 14).
Rob, why not be honest about what attracts you to killing things with a gun? Why do you avoid using the "K" word - are you fearful of the impression this might create? Why have you avoided responding to any of the moral issues raised by me?
Having experienced both sides of this cultural divide, I feel my mind has been opened to other ways of thinking. I have found the courage to challenge the traditions with which I was raised. Labelling strangers about whom you know nothing, while failing the address the arguments they present is not a convincing response.
No one "needs" a gun. Owning a gun and using it to kill things is a choice. The reasons some people make this choice concerns both me and many others in the community. The cultural attitudes that underlie recreational shooting and hunting take place in a moral vacuum.
This was my experience. Do you have anything to share in this respect?
I believe the readers of The Echo would prefer to hear what motivates you to shoot things in the first instance. True courage requires emotional honesty. So why not take this opportunity to share what killing means to you and give the local community a chance to judge for themselves?
R J Poole
Don't kill the krill
I'M REALLY cranky about the krill! Local chemists and TV ads are urging people to swallow krill capsules. Don't do it!
Krill are threatened by over-harvesting. Krill are the basis of the Antarctic food chain, and essential food for penguins, seals, small fish and whales.
If we keep harvesting huge quantities of krill, what will the whales and penguins have to eat? If we eat all the krill, the Southern Ocean food chain collapses, the small fish die, the medium-sized fish die, the big fish die, the seals, penguins and whales die, just so we can have a few mineral supplements.
Scientists are very concerned. Don't buy krill capsules! Krill are small but significant.
Care about the krill and get your omega nutrients from fish, eggs, nuts and kiwi fruit instead.
Not the only victims
IT'S great to see so many "good blokes" participating in V-Day actions about ending violence against women. Like most people, I abhor violence against women, but what about violence against men? Not only perpetrated by men vs men, but also by women vs men. Violence is not always physical, and women are not the only victims. But where is the support for male victims of violence?
One in three women will be physically or sexually assaulted in their lifetime. That's awful. But the stats for men are worse. One in two men will be physically or sexually assaulted in their lifetime.
I'm all for equality these days, no special treatment for either gender. Violence is violence and it is wrong, no matter what genitalia you were born with. So I'm sorry but I won't be supporting the V-Day campaign.
Feminism has achieved a lot towards gender equality, but now it seems to be going too far in the opposite direction, especially in the family court arena.
What I support is equality, not some one-sided debate about how women are such victims of violence, with the inference being that it's always at the hands of men.
THE potential risks that the unconventional gas industry poses to all of us who live on the Northern Rivers are very real and needs to be thoroughly investigated, to prove without a doubt this industry is 100% safe for now and in the future.
Yet even without this security, there are a few farmers / land owners who have signed up to Metgasco to allow a well or two on their land. Yes it is your land to do with as you like, but in this case the decision you make has the potential to cause huge risks for people living beyond your boundary fence.
Allowing any gas company access to your land without fully understanding and accepting the possible fallout from your decision is very serious. Do you realise just one well decreases the value of your land by 12%? Have you ever questioned why you have to sign a confidentiality clause? Has Metgasco explained that you will be responsible for any damages caused by the well/s on your land should any occur to neighbouring land, waterways or livestock and human health?
Already we are seeing division between neighbours who are incredibly hurt and confused and feel so let down by the one landowner, who has said "yes" and seemingly has no regard for the welfare or livelihood of his or her neighbours.
Farmers usually rally together to help each other with all sorts of problems and they are renowned for the support and friendship they give to each other. For the others, I can't help but wonder if the money is going to be worth the loss of trust and friendship in years to come.
Money where your mouth is
I WATCH with horror as the people's choice of not having coal seam gas production in our area is ignored, and the trucks assisted by our police into new areas. We don't have a say in this matter.
However, we do have a say about where we put our money!
Protesting can give us valuable time until (hopefully) there is a change of heart by the industry and/or the government. Protesters are my heroes.
So, how can we impel them into a change of heart?
1. Industry: Affect their profits! Put your money where your mouth is. Firstly, make sure you are buying your electricity from a retailer that doesn't invest in coal seam gas. RED is a retailer wholly Australian owned and powered from the Snowy Mountain's hydro. It doesn't invest in coal seam gas. (I have no vested interest in RED).
2. Shares: Investing in CSG? Change to an ethical investment group.
3. Superannuation: Promoting CSG? Change to an ethical investment group.
4. Savings: Which banks invest in coal seam gas?
5. The government: Both major parties push CSG, which leaves the Greens.
Governments are impelled to bring in money from overseas. Why? Money is created as a debt, but the interest accrued isn't created at the same time. To prevent money in circulation from depletion, we have to borrow more money, or sell things overseas.
We wouldn't protest against CSG if it was produced benignly, and enough put aside for us. Overseas evidence confirms that CSG processes do long-term, irreparable damage. Alternative energy is a cheap solution.
Ultimately, we may have to challenge a monetary system that keeps all our governments on the treadmill of growth, so as to survive.
Changing the economic system is another major battle.
LISMORE was treated to great dancing and exceptional theatre this Valentine's Day (V-Day) thanks to Lismore Women's Health Centre (LWHC) and Lismore Theatre Company (LTC).
Their efforts raised awareness of violence against women and girls, provided local opportunities for women and men to join the global movement to end it, and raised funds to support local women's services.
LWHC's Lismore Rising event saw women and men "dancing in the streets" to show their support for the estimated one billion women across the world who will be violated in their lifetime.
The atmosphere was alive, the music electric, and the prominent position outside the CBD's transit centre brought the issue to a wider audience.
Thank you LWHC. I trust next year's event will see even more Lismore community members come out to dance in support of this important issue.
Following the dance, LTC performed an outstanding piece, Vagina Monologues, a play based on interviews with women, which told many funny and moving stories.
Aunty June Gordon gave a generous welcome to country followed by a poignant song performed by her son, Anthony, which set the tone for an affecting and stunning performance. The audience packed the Star Court Theatre - most laughed out loud, some were moved to tears, a few were confronted, and still more raised their arms, with the actors, in support of the global movement to end the violence.
Congratulations to all the cast - it seemed a very fitting way to spend Valentine's Day.
Congratulations and thanks to the organisations, women, men and local media who together, made Lismore's V-Day a wonderful success.
Roads and bridges
EVERYONE involved with the Glenugie and Doubtful Creek anti-CSG blockades saw the vast amount of heavy equipment transported to each well site - massive convoys of monstrous vehicles followed later by a procession of huge gravel trucks - all via narrow, fragile rural roads and bridges. Imagine this multiplied many times over.
Imagine the damage to existing roads and bridges plus the fragmentation of farmlands as CSG companies bulldoze access to multiple well-pads. Williams et al., (2012: An analysis of coal seam gas production and natural resource management in Australia) describe how, "wells... 200-750 metres apart in a grid... connected by a network of roads, pipelines and compressor stations... can block pre-existing access to private and public land, as well as intruding into formerly reserved areas of native vegetation".
They cite the 500,000ha Pilliga as an example: "The full production project... would allow the clearing of at least 2,400ha... (and) the fragmentation of... 85,000ha. Well pads would be cleared to a size of 1.2ha, some 1,000 km of pipelines would be cleared, and there would be additional clearing for roads, tracks and infrastructure. Well pads would be placed on a 500-700 m grid, effectively carving up the most intact patch of bush in western NSW into a highly fragmented industrial zone." If you superimpose that scenario on 500,000ha productive agricultural land you can see why so many farming communities oppose CSG.
It's not just the water and it's not just the Greenies!
LISMORE Council has sustainable development as one of its key processes. It even has a sustainable department! Yet over the years LCC has demonstrated no comprehension of sustainability.
The strategic road review has a baseline premise that driving habits will be the same in 24 years as they are today. Climate and social change denial at its worst.
I am not sure what the figure is for commuter hour traffic, but I imagine the person per car is no higher than 1.2 per vehicle. Does council believe the world can afford all commuters - eg Chinese and Indians - travelling to and from work in 2036 with 1.2 persons per car? Can our society afford 1.2 people per car in 2036? Does logical emotional intelligence tell you that in 2036 people will still be commuting to Lismore with 1.2 persons per automobile? Why have the consultants and council decided that the priority is to cater to people who want to drive with 1.2 people per car?
The ring road is projected to reduce congestion by how much? How does council reconcile sustainable development by catering to this completely unsustainable current paradigm? A viable solution is to do nothing and let the commuters sort themselves out. Commuters have choice. Continue to put up with a frustrating slow commute or do something about it.
Giving thumbs up to an expensive ring road that destroys koala habitat is proof council's proclaimed adherence to sustainable principles is narcissism: image masquerading as substance.
TONY John Abbott arrived in Australia under the Assisted Migration Scheme when his mother was an Australian citizen and his dad had been in Australia since 1940. Yet he and his supporters flame anyone who dares to support what he calls "illegals" and "boat people" and "queue jumpers". Examine this and ask yourself, are Abbott's dad and mother rorters who entered the country under false pretences?
Electioneering in the wind
JANELLE Saffin's sudden urge to contact Don Page, Thomas George and Chris Gulaptis about CSG suggests there is an election in the wind. Her newfound concerns about CSG remind us we should judge politicians by their actions, not their words. Therefore her words should be viewed against the following facts:
She chooses to be a member of the ALP
She expresses solidarity with Caucus decisions, and has never crossed the floor to vote against the ALP
The ALP, from Gillard down to Eddie Obeid, actively promotes and supports CSG extraction
A vote for Saffin is assuredly a vote for CSG. It's basically the same as voting Liberal or National.
Money down drain
MANY people will agree with you that Matt Graham's nine hours shackled to an underground pipe was an "extreme length" to go to protesting CSG mining; however the truly dedicated extremists are the cabal of board room suits and short-term politicians who blatantly ride roughshod over the obvious unrest of most citizens about this type of mining.
Several years in, and high-level public servants in the health department say, "No one consulted us about the health effects of this mining technology". This in spite of clear health effect in many countries including Australia.
Forty police here, 20 police there, all "protecting" the property of CSG miners and trying to scare off concerned citizens. Let's remember that our politicians have signed off on CSG mining and forgone any tax revenue for many years. Why? To help a struggling cottage industry? Just one implication of this is that the thousands of police hours being squandered to back up these dodgy deals are being paid for from the community purse. There is no CSG mining revenue to pay for it.
The message is clear - trash the aquifers, take your profits off shore and we will pay you to do it. I wonder where the kickbacks are stashed?
Ed's note - John, the five year "royalty-free period" for CSG has been removed.
More humane methods
I WAS dismayed to hear on the local ABC an interview with a representative from the agriculture department regarding training for local farmers in the use of 1080 to poison wild dogs in the area.
Having lost a pet to 1080 and witnessed the cruel death he suffered, I am wondering if anyone using it has seen the suffering it causes. We have demonstrated in the past our concern for cruelty to animals - the local response to the live animal trade to Indonesia, for instance.
Wild dogs are a human problem. People have irresponsibly released unwanted dogs, and our human solution is to kill them in a most cruel way while discussing how caring we are about cruelty to animals.
Baiting is also an indiscriminate method as the birds and other creatures often transport the baits to other locations. This was the conclusion of locals to whom I spoke, who found their own pet dogs baited when the dogs had been locked up in the yard whenever baits had been set. I am sympathetic to farmers' plight, but surely we are now educated enough to devise less horrific and more humane methods of dealing with problems.
Minister hears veterans
RECENTLY we had Senator Michael Ronaldson, Shadow Minister for Veterans Affairs in Lismore to host a veterans' forum. The forum was well attended by local veterans groups and was a great opportunity to raise veterans' issues with the shadow minister.
I was very happy to sign the Fair Indexation Pledge with Senator Ronaldson, which guarantees fair indexation to military superannuants. The current system places them at a disadvantage to other forms of indexation.
I would like to extend my sincerest thanks to the local sub-branches who helped out in the lead-up to the event, and to those who attended to offer their insights into veterans' affairs. The issues raised, some personal, others generic for all veterans, were important for Senator Ronaldson to hear and I thank all those who attended.
Nationals Candidate for Page