Letters to the editor - Feb 28

Science, not stunts

I AM responding to Don Page and Thomas George's letter (Echo, February 21) where they have a go at me over my call for their support to protect us from coal seam gas.

The swipes are petty given the gravity of the State allowing CSG mining in the Northern Rivers, negatively affecting our water, rivers, farmlands, fishing tourism and property values. Even Deputy Premier, National Party leader Andrew Stoner, said he would not want CSG in his back yard, admitting it would affect property prices; but he has not moved to protect us.

They said my call for a CSG-free Northern Rivers was a stunt for my re-election.

Wrong. I don't need stunts.

They called my position on CSG a "recent" one. Wrong. I expressed concern about CSG in 2010, realising it was not natural gas as we had been led to believe. I have spoken up since, becoming stronger, as our State MPs failed to do their jobs to protect us. I criticised the previous NSW Labor Government. I now criticise the NSW Coalition Government.

I played a key part in the establishment of the Independent Scientific Assessment Committee at federal level, to undertake bio-regional assessments. They are held up by the NSW State Government rejecting the rigorous scientific protocols process.

They claim their action is based on science. If it was they would move to get us an exclusion zone. My opposition to CSG here is based on inter alia the published evidence of the National Water Commission, and the CSIRO about the risks to water.

Don and Thomas's reference to Gloucester and Tony Burke is misleading. The State has constitutional power over "onshore petroleum resources", power to issue CSG licences.

The Federal Environment Minister assesses applications given the green light by the State, against three defined areas - endangered species, heritage and Ramsar wetlands.

Janelle Saffin MP

Federal Member for Page


What's up doc?

JUST what sort of dream cloud are Lismore general practitioners living under?

In Lismore proper one practice alone bulk bills. That practice, however, is full apart from age-restricted access to the elderly and infants.

This makes it unimaginably difficult for those such as my daughter and her partner, both disability support pensioners all their adult lives, who have just moved to Lismore. For them to obtain medical treatment, a bus ride or taxi is required to Goonellabah where the only other bulk-billing (for now) surgery is located.

The alternative is to front up with cash, to be refunded by Medicare. Try doing that on any day other than payday on a very low income. That sort of spare cash is just not floating round! My daughter, previously resident in Campbelltown, Byron Bay and Mullumbimby has always been able to bulk bill.

What's up Lismore GPs? What's the story?

Name and address withheld by request


Rights and wrongs

THE CSG issue is heating up. The police are effectively a paid and permanent armed guard service for the mining companies and quite rightly take exception to tactics of verbal intimidation by over-zealous protesters.

Passionate protesters however quite rightly see scores of police and the deployment of the Tactical Response Group as machine gun diplomacy. How many protesters carry guns, shields, batons or tasers? How many police will be physically dragged away and arrested?

So the miners have a right to mine, the police to police and the people to protest. Some believe an elected government has the right to do anything they desire. We all believe we have the right to work a lifetime to buy a home and build a dream. When the Environmental Defenders Office was alive we had the facility to defend that dream from big mining - now that's gone. Our forefathers fought wars to defend our right to democracy and a fair go for all.

So for mine, if just one of our fellow residents has to forgo their lifetime dream for state royalties and mining profits then that is wrong. When the survival of your dream is reliant on the whims of multi-national mining companies and money-hungry state governments, then that is wrong. When they can happily risk our clean water, property values and local economy, then that is wrong. When government can ignore 80-100% of our community, that is wrong.

All I know is that those who will profit from these decisions are the very same people who will make and enforce them and they don't bloody live here.

Wayne Bromwich



Enough is enough

DO you think we could have less letters and reports of low-lifes protesting about CSG miners going about their lawful business?

Enough is enough. It's getting tedious and boring.

Darcy Mckee


Ed's note - We just publish what people send us...


Uncertain return

IS the environmental destruction and social dislocation threatened by Metgasco really worth it?

While analyst Adrian Prendergast, equity and mining analyst for stockbroking company E L Ballieu, predicts a "bright future" for Metgasco (Northern Star, February 14), a more sober assessment came from Johan Hedstrom, senior energy analyst for Bell Potter, a full service share broker giving independent advice to investors.

He wrote: "…the quality of the coals in the Clarence-Moreton Basin was not as good as the Surat Basin (Qld)…the coals were of lower permeability which made it difficult to get commercial rates of flow as Metgasco has found. There's a question mark really on whether these coals are going to be productive in the commercial sense."

Investors in the sharemarket have spoken, with Metgasco share prices dropping to a low of 10 cents - over half of their value 12 months ago.

So here we have a company intent on invading and ruining our productive agricultural and for meagre export profit and a very uncertain financial return.

Steve Stewart

Lismore Heights


Double standards

CONGRATULATIONS to Nick Xenophon for putting his own freedom on the line by standing up for democracy in Malaysia. I would also like to see Australian politicians call for free elections in Communist China.

Even with its autocratic rule, Malaysia is a paradise of sanity compared to Communist China. At least in Malaysia there is a "leader of the opposition". In China there is none.

The Chinese Communist Party seized power by force in 1949 and has never faced an election. In China women pregnant with their second child are dragged away for forced abortions and forced sterilization if they become pregnant with a second child. Political prisoners in China are regularly killed so that their organs can be taken and sold for transplants - the luckier ones are kept alive to work as slave labour making cheap consumer products to export to countries like Australia.

So let's have no more double standards and condemn all dictatorships equally whether they are an "important trading partner" or not.

Bob Vinnicombe




RESIDENTS in the Kyogle, Tweed Heads, Byron, Ballina and Lismore council areas should be aware that, as we speak, the State Government is reviewing the proposed environmental zones in their councils' Local Environment Plans (LEPs). This is in response to a relatively small number of submissions from rural residents who do not want an environmental zone on their land. In Lismore, almost as many land-owners lodged submissions supporting environmental zones. The vast majority (70%) of submissions were to do with rural zones, not environmental protection.

Environmental zones are intended to: protect, manage and restore areas of high ecological, scientific, cultural or aesthetic values; to prevent development that could destroy, damage or otherwise have an adverse effect on those values; to retain areas of unique natural vegetation, particularly rainforest remnants and ecologically endangered communities; and to encourage the retention of wildlife habitats and associated vegetation and wildlife corridors.

Whilst a range of developments can be carried out on this land, the zones prevent, ameliorate or reduce the impact of development in environmentally significant areas in the event that land-owners lodge a development application to enable development on their land.

The draft LEPs went through extensive public consultation processes, and amendments were made in response to resident concerns.

However, it appears that the small but vocal group of opponents to environmental zones have been heard in Macquarie Street through representations by some local members to Brad Hazzard.

Whilst the overwhelming number of submissions to the draft LEPs did not mention Environmental Zones, the review is only focused on them.

If the vocal minority is all that's heard in the review process, it is likely that environmental zones will be removed by the State Government against the wishes of the silent majority. If you wish your voice to be heard, email ezonesreview@planning.nsw. gov.au by March 11.

Ros Irwin



Listening to concerns

REGIONAL communities are understandably concerned about coal seam gas (CSG) activity, so it's important to reflect on the significant advances we've made on this issue over the past two years.

In 2011 the Labor Government had been in power for 16 years. During that time they granted 44 CSG exploration licences across a quarter of NSW, including most bizarrely, in many of the state's country towns and villages.

To make matters worse Labor failed to introduce any regulations to protect our communities or our precious land and water resources.

Since coming to government the NSW Liberals and Nationals have taken action, introducing the strongest set of CSG regulations in the country through our Strategic Regional Land Use Policy (SRLUP), which protects strategic agricultural land through the establishment of an independent and scientific gateway process.

Having introduced protections for strategic agricultural land through the SRLUP, this week we further strengthened the rules around CSG by declaring country towns, villages and other residential areas across NSW as 'no go zones' for CSG. This means no CSG exploration or production will take place within 2km of residential zones.

We have also appointed the independent Environment Protection Authority (EPA) as the lead regulator of the CSG industry and we have asked the independent Chief Scientist and Chief Engineer to review all CSG activity in NSW.

These tough new measures around CSG are the result of consistent and strong advocacy by the NSW Nationals.

Nationals MPs live in the communities affected by CSG and

understand the issues - that's why they have been able to make effective representations and secure these key initiatives to further protect regional communities, particularly country towns, from the effects of CSG.

We have always said the government is determined to strike the balance between the sustainable management of CSG and the protection of our land and water sources, and this week's announcement shows that we are listening to the community's concerns to help refine what are already the strongest set of CSG regulations in the country.

Andrew Stoner

Deputy Premier / NSW

Nationals Leader


Defenders denied

COST of living increases to Defence Force Superannuation Pensions are indexed at a much lower rate than age pensions and indexed much, much lower than politicians' pensions.

On June 16, in Federal Parliament, the ALP, the Greens and their independent accomplices voted against fair pension indexation for old sailors, soldiers and airmen.

Those MPs are seemingly the same type of cowards who, when we were in South Vietnam, stopped our mail, refused to load our supplies, vilified our children at school, abused our wives in public and then spat at us when we returned from dutifully doing the government's bidding. .

But watch on ANZAC Day how they slither into every RSL and remembrance ceremony in their electorates to smile at cameras while shaking veterans' hands or droning on about sacrifice. A word, like "service", "patriotism" or "loyalty" that few of them evidently understand.

Geoff Pickering



Flammable situation

THE independent scientists did their job informing the public about how gas fracking destroys water quality and aquifers for farmland and human habitation in general. This I know to be only one of the many dangers concerning this filthy industry.

My question to Metgasco is that since our country experienced so many horrendous bushfires this season (and I know gas wells emit highly flammable methane gas), could we, the public, have some answers from you and the Minister for the Environment about what happens when bushfires meet gas wells?

Sophia Hoeben



Step forward

I ALONG with many Australians welcome the passage of the Act of Recognition for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples as a major stepping stone towards a referendum on the Constitutional Recognition of Australia's First Peoples. The legislation recognises the "unique and special place" of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and is designed to give momentum for constitutional recognition .This was passed on the fifth anniversary of the Apology to the Stolen Generations. A very poignant time and signalling that Australia has moved one step closer to recognising its first people.

Julia Gillard called this lack of recognition "the unhealed wound that even now lies open at the heart of our national story" and Tony Abbott said "this stain is on our soul". It is rare to see both parties unite on any issue.

The passage through the lower house of an Act of Recognition was met by applause from the public galleries and from Aboriginal leaders. However, it is important to remember that the consequences of the action taken against the Stolen Generations continues to affect Aboriginal communities today, and will continue to do so into the future. I believe it is important that we enhance our commitment to assist those who continue to suffer as a result of the policies of previous governments. No gesture speaks more deeply to the healing of our nation's fabric than amending our nation's founding charter.

We welcome the passage of the Act of Recognition but the hard yards in achieving substantive constitutional reform are just starting.

Julie Leete



Better than a holiday

WITH regard to your tag line of February 21 '(As Good as a Holiday') - I think you have a sick sense of humour.

Each week all you do is add items to my "To Do" list. This is not a holiday!

This is 24/7 work - but as I adore being involved in this beautiful community - I's thanks youse mate.

Each week I think "it can't be better than last week's edition" - and then it darn well is. How do you do it? What have you put in the water cooler? Or do you do as I do - two heaped teaspoons of instant espresso and a shot of hazelnut syrup (yummy rocket fuel).

Keep on keeping on Echo.

Liz Gibbs



Dinosaur politics

DON Page's and Thomas George's response to your paper regarding Janelle Saffin's request that they stand up for their electorate on the CSG issue highlights exactly what is wrong with the Australian political landscape. Australia is governed by 'party' politics which has resulted in the current two-horse race; only the colours are different. The vested interests, lack of transparency, backbone and accountability remain the constant on both sides.

Since Kevin Rudd was deposed in what was essentially a coup instigated by the Mineral Council of Australia, people have realised that it doesn't matter what party you vote for, the result will be the same. Right or wrong, when people vote, they are inspired not by the party, but by the leader of that party, their individual integrity and vision, things which are now completely absent on both sides.

We, the people of Australia, have had enough of party politics Don and Thomas, and politicians who do nothing but tow the party line instead of listening to and having the backbone to represent their electorate. Your ignorance to this confirms that you are from the political landscape of the Jurassic era and like the inhabitants of that time, will become extinct.

Whether politicians wear red, blue, green or pink does not matter to us anymore, what matters is their willingness to represent us, whether that means agreeing with other party members or not. This is where you may learn something from Ms Saffin.

Obviously all you lot are interested in is pointing the finger at the other side whilst still consorting with foreign interest big business. The only reason the new CSG regulations have been introduced is not because of your sudden concern for the health of our communities, but because we, the people have had to do what you should have been doing from the start. We do not want CSG in this region, in this state, or in this country. How much more money are your bosses prepared to waste on police security until you understand this?

PS: I do not recall hearing the Liberals or Nationals making any loud objections to the Gloucester CSG project on behalf of the community there.

Scott Walters

South Lismore


Hunter instinct

RJ POOLE (Echo, February 21) has set himself up as an arbiter of morals. He is dead against culling (killing) of feral animals that threaten our livestock and native fauna. But his hated "guns" are just one method of feral animal/pest control. There over eight other very different control methods in current and regular use locally, but shooting is still the most humane and widespread.

He asks plaintively: "Why do we horrid humans hunt to kill?" To properly explain this requires more space than any editor's letters page. In fact it needs a full newspaper article! Briefly, this scenario is bound-up with our long-term genetic memories and eons-long human hunter-gather history. For many of us (including Koories and aboriginal peoples worldwide) hunting is an essential, sacred and much respected activity. Thus hunters have a cultural need to actively take part in the balance and management of nature, gaining spiritual and actual sustenance from that healthy out-doors activity.

Thus Mr Poole's urbanised repulsion of hunting is in reality multi-cultural vilification. Buying a pre-packaged RSPCA-approved "paw-mark" chicken hardly "absolves" the buyer from killing and the eventual eating and digestion of that animal.

Similarly, home-grown vegetables or fruits, keeping a flower-garden, bee-keeping, tending chickens or keeping domestic pets are all part of a similar genetically embedded hunter-gatherer behaviour. I feel Mr Poole is suffering from "Senile Guilt Syndrome". This manifests itself with self-righteous attacks upon people the patient delusionally believe are following them to perdition for phoney past misdeeds. It's a type of pseudo-evangelism, but apparently assists in healing post-traumatic stress disorders. Thus I respectfully suggest other patients similarly affected avail themselves of the specialist mental facility at Lismore Base Hospital.

Rob Andrews

East Lismore

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