The NSW coalition (Liberal/Nationals) suffered further embarrass- ment this week after its ‘Gateway Process,’ which assesses mining proposals on strategic agricultural land, saw two of the six panel members resign.
According to The Australian (Newscorp), the NSW Farmers Association questioned the independence of the government- appointed panel’s chairman Terry Short, a soil expert, who had to declare an interest in two of the three applications being assessed by the panel.
In addition, Greens NSW MP Jeremy Buckingham put the boot in on fossil fuel lobbyists; he said Mr Short and his panel were forced to grant a ‘Conditional Gateway Certificate’ for a mine in the Bylong Valley west of Newcastle, despite assessing the mine as failing 12 out of 13 criteria. ‘It’s ludicrous that the Bylong mine failed 12 out of 13 criteria, and the Spur Hill mine that failed nine out of 11 criteria, are still granted a certificate and progress to the next stage of planning assessment.’
This again casts doubt over this government’s credibility and its continuous bleating of having the ‘toughest CSG regulations in the country.’ Mr Stoner’s office again offered up that rhetoric in reply to The Echo when asked what he will bring to the north coast as its minister.
In return, The Echo suggested to Mr Stoner’s office perhaps the present safeguards weren’t working given the overwhelming protests by farmers at Bentley, Leard, The Pilliga and other min- ing sites. The Echo then asked if the minister would intervene and stop Metgasco’s plans at Bentley given the public outcry.
Unsurprisingly there has been no reply – The Echo understands the Bentley land earmarked for fracking is owned by a high-profile Nationals Party member, as was the case in Glenugie.
Ah, the colony of NSW. Bound to serve at the Queen’s pleasure since 1788, it has a long rich history of free-trade barbarism and territories won and lost.
With bloodied battles, treachery, deal making and women and wine, it would make a great HBO series.
The script reads: Within two years in office and after 16 years of Labor, the coalition led by lord Baz has proved it too is a victim of the dark forces against democracy: lobbyists.
Lord Baz throws himself on his sword after being ICACked and while the blood still flows, his round table must quickly regroup to an- nounce nervously that it will restore honesty and trust in government. Ha! Regardless of the myth of political integrity, just who are these loose rabble of coalition shark bait in the NSW lower house ? (The lower house is the Legislative Assembly; the upper house is the Legislative Council and can veto the lower house.)
Mike Baird (Liberal) Premier
Newby Mike is a big fan of God, particularly Henry VIII’s interpretation, Anglicanism. So much so that young Baird trained for a year at a bible school in the USA after an economics degree. And after a short stint as an investment banker, he followed daddy Lib MP Bruce into politics.
An early blunder as treasurer saw him misplace but then find a billion dollars, but since then he’s been a typical neo-con economic ‘manager’.
Expect $19 billion of cuts from the public sector and public assets in years to come. Is this a result of Labor’s previous mismanagement or a big neo-con job so the top one per cent can continue to squeeze the middle class?
Regardless, this flat-earth regressive with a limited range of empathy has voted against embryonic stem research, euthanasia and does not support same-sex marriage.
His Abbott-like attributes should cause some alarm – they are apparently chums. Unenlightenment aside, Baird’s big battle is to bullshit us into believing there is such a thing as political integrity.
Case in point is his questionable decision to give Lord Baz’s killer, Di Girolamo, a board role on State Water Corporation in mid-2012. Apparently Girolamo had no experience doing such things.
Additionally there’s the $200,000 a year appointment to a government board of businessman Roger Massy-Greene, whose company had also donated to Mike Baird’s election campaigns.
To top off the lobbyist connection, Baird’s former chief of staff, Stephen Galilee, now runs the Minerals Council of NSW.
Business is back, baby.
Andrew Stoner (Nationals)
Sir Stone-alot let a microhydro business sink in his Oxley electorate last year.
It was appalling to witness the fossil fuel industry and his governance ruin the hopes and dreams of innova- tion and best practice for the nation and state.
Pelena Energy, based in Dorrigo, manufactured small-scale hydro engines which generated free energy from running streams and creeks.
There was no dam needed for it to operate, which is funny because it reflected Sir Stone-alot’s ‘giving no damn’ policy.
To be fair, Pelena Energy’s Peter Lynch told The Echo it was a bipartisan effort by both sides of politics that ruined him, along with the Clean Energy Council which is run by fossil fuel goons.
As typical of Nationals Illuminati, Sir Stone-alot must support fossil fuel expansion.
This means being against farmers, agriculture, the outback, the big scrub, the natural environment, regional NSW and anything with wide open spaces.
Did nothing as Crown Lands minister over cost-shifting revenue from Byron Shire caravan parks and reserves to NSW govcorp.
Jillian Skinner (Liberal)
Young Liberal spawn are tested for allegiances to deregulation (cutting red tape) and privatisation (sale of public assets and services).
Skinner, 70, represents Sydney north shore elites and has been a long-term Lib since 1988.
As minister for health and medical research, she propagates Liberal party spawn in pH balanced water with nitrogen, phosphorus, and potas- sium. There, she hatches perfectly formed Young Liberals.
Gladys Berejiklian (Liberal)
Dame Gladys Berejiklian is the perpetual winner of the most unpronounceable last name in politics. Could it be the orthodox Armenian heritage? Spent her youth with a commerce degree and then financial institutional work.
As a young Liberal, the Skinner laboratory spawned Gladys from fungi.
Her press releases as minister for transport have not included anything for regional NSW and last year she handed down a towering edifice of excrement to north coast residents entitled Casino to Murwillumbah Transport Study.
It was highly flawed as it failed to address light rail, only examined a small portion of the railway, inexplicably inflated previous figures on costings and gave the answers Macquarie Street wanted. Bravo, whatever.
Anthony Roberts (Liberal)
Recently replaced the disgraced and odious Chris Hartcher as mining minister and seems to have fitted right in – his recent visit to the northern rivers last week was entirely insulting as he tried to paint Bentley residents next to a proposed drilling operation as ‘extremists’. Since when was
Mining MP Anthony Roberts pictured with John Winston Howard’s other advisers protecting your home against invasion ‘extreme?’ Nobody likes to be labelled but Roberts is an ex-John Howard advi- sor/suckhole clown.
Brad Hazzard (Liberal)
It’s a big gig, planning. Perhaps the biggest in gov- ernment as it entails asking the mining industry and Jamie Packer what they would like.
But we were told we needed a planning reform, so off with it! Expect meaningless words to follow, such as ‘putting community first’.
As a long-serving Lib and lawyer on the NSW front bench, Hazzard’s DNA is also carefully extracted for propagation in the Skinner laboratory.
Don Page (Nationals)
Member for Ballina, minister for local government and the north coast. Lives in Byron Bay.
Katrina Hodgkinson (Nationals)
As minister for primary industries and small business, the Hodge presides over the disastrous local land services (LLS) where around five per cent of rural landowners recently voted on a board election.
The newly branded and bloated bureaucratic department provides landowners ‘services’ and landowners must pay the state special lev- ied rates which may or may not be consitutional.
Pru Goward (Liberal)
As minister for family and community services, Pru was asked to resign recently because her department could not manage around 75,000 cases of reported child abuse, according to a report by the NSW Ombudsman.
She was also under fire to resign last year for lying, according to Murdoch’s Daily Telegraph. She told Parliament there were 2,068 caseworkers looking after vulnerable children, despite ‘a leaked Ernst and Young report saying instead staffing levels never reached that figure.’
Fatigue, disgust and a lack of space prevent more; however, the show rolls on at www. parliament.nsw.gov.au.
The portfolios published here will no doubt change as Lord Baird marks his territory.
As CEO of Metgasco, you have once again proclaimed a ‘fuck you’ attitude towards northern rivers residents.
Thank you for the clarity. A least we know your intention is to push ahead with mining this area despite deep and wide- spread public resistance, as demonstrated at the Bentley site outside Lismore.
Unfortunately, it’s a clarity that the NSW minister for the north coast, Don Page, has been unable to share. He still won’t say if he supports your activities or the farmers that will be affected.
Regardless, I do take umbrage to the false and misleading claim on Metgasco’s website that NSW is ‘running out of gas’.
Australian Energy Regulator’s (AER) State of the energy market 2012 says domestic demand for the state is not increasing.
It’s tiresome to address these lies over again – if we protect the domestic supply there will be no problems other than the smoking ruin that you leave in your wake. It just goes to show how powerful the mining lobby is, huh?
I do however support one lofty ideal on your website: ‘to supply the gas to local industry in the north east corner of NSW before sup- plying gas to the broader eastern coast energy market.’
Such benevolence could extend to actually doing your toxic business elsewhere. After all, Australia is a big place and it’s quite easy to get lost in. Or better still, perhaps you could repurpose your corporation for the inevitable renewables take-over?
Anyway, the intention to mine a region that boasts world-class farm produce and tourism is simply an act of war, regardless of what- ever weak legislation and politicians are in place.
In conclusion, I will not give credibility to the insane premise that the expansion of your industry is acceptable in light of clear evidence that suggests it’s stupid.
The NSW Coalition celebrates its third year in office this week, but as usual there is a muddled message emanating from govcorp’s Macquarie Street HQ.
Predictably both the coalition and Labor claim opposite results with essential services, education and health. It’s either being reduced or restored, just like the environment and business.
But we do know that with three coalition MPs facing ICAC probes, neither side can claim much integrity. Former Liberal energy minister Chris Hartcher, along with fellow central coast MPs Chris Spence and Darren Webber, are now swimming with Labor’s Eddie Obeid, Ian Macdonald and Tony Kelly in the same festering soup.
Banning lobbyists and corporate funding has always been the simple solution for turning around a toxic system that rewards greed over public service. But who’s game to make that change? Of course the (mostly) boys’ club won’t allow it; it’s the only way they know how to generate prosperity.
However, the nuanced art of politics is about bending the truth for personal gain, not snapping it in two. At a local level, political discourse continued at sub-sonic depths this week with three north coast Nationals MPs claiming that federal Labor MP Justine Elliot and the Greens voted against road funding in the lower house.
What? Voted against spending on roads?
Coalition MPs Geoff Provest (Tweed), Don Page (Ballina) and Thomas George (Lismore) were ‘alarmed’ the Roads to Recovery program could be scrapped. Mr Page said it would represent ‘a $2.9 million cut which local councils had no way of making up,’ and that part of the amendment was a key element of ‘continuing the road to recovery program post 30 June 2014.’
Interestingly, Mr Page was the only MP who made a comment with figures attached; the other MPs just frothed rhetoric.
But the amendment in question, the Land Transport Infrastructure Amendment Bill 2014, clearly says ‘There is no net impact to the Australian government budget from this bill.’
When handballed back to Labor, federal Labor MP Anthony Albanese told The Echo that the press release was ‘bullshit,’ and that it was sent as a bulk press release by regional Nationals MPs.
He vigorously defended Labor’s roads budget and blasted the inaction of the coalition over infrastructure. As for any financial implications from the bill, Mr Albanese said that the Roads to Recovery funding is covered by the forward estimates and, as it was not an appropriations bill, there were no financial implications. (There are two types of bills, and non appropriation bills have no financial consequence.)
Do such vague and complicated shenanigans do the community any favours? I think I’ve just been bored to tears by Geoff, Don and Thomas.
Hans Lovejoy, editor
It’s commonly known that capitalism is a voracious over-eater.
But can anything be done to slow down or even stop habitat destruction that threatens the survival of future generations?
Laws and legislation are the framework to address it, says UK-based international environmental lawyer and author Polly Higgins, who will speak on the topic at Mullumbimby Civic Hall on Saturday March 15.
She is promoting the idea that Ecocide, or the destruction of living habitats, should be considered a crime along with genocide and war crimes. She has redrafted Ecocide legislation, which was dropped from UN’s Crimes Against Humanity list when The International Criminal Court was enacted after the Second World War.
Currently that list includes genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes and crimes of aggression.
But given nations have always flaunted the rule of law –especially after the atrocities of WW II – how effectual would it be?
PM Abbott, for instance, embraces God as the reason to plunder the natural environment. He said as much to a forestry industry gathering last week.
Supposedly it’s what Jesus would have wanted.
Others however, would prefer to maintain the delicate and largely incomprehensible ecosystem that provides everyone on this planet with a stable climate.
But will that logic prevail since the West’s economic model depends on resource extraction and a questionable interpretation of god/s?
As futurist R Buckminster Fuller said, ‘We are not going to be able to operate our Spaceship Earth successfully nor for much longer unless we see it as a whole spaceship and our fate as common. It has to be everybody or nobody.’
Doors for Ms Higgins’s event open at 6pm and it will be chaired by SCU lecturer in law, Aidan Ricketts (author of The Activists’ Handbook) and myself. Welcome to Country is at 7pm, and a Q&A will follow her talk.
The US fossil fuel industry has released an almost identical film to Gaslands, called Truthlands.
With all the folksy charm and clumsy camera work of Gaslands, it features typical rural ‘mom’ Shelly, who wants to find out the ‘truth’ after being frightened by the claims made in Gaslands.
So she takes a road trip and interviews ‘experts’ that assure her that drilling metres from your home is just tickety-boo.
Footage of gas wells was suspiciously absent, as were interviews with anyone who is adversely affected by natural-gas drilling close to their home. Their message? Gaslands is full of innuendo and misconceptions. Okay, fracking is not perfect; the companies can do better with safety, but we like our standard of living. So, boo-hoo to director Josh Fox for instilling fear into us simple folk.
Gaslands II, on the other hand, picks up where the first left off, and delves deeper into corporate ownership of politics, the effects fracking has had on right-wing leaning conservative rural families, (the nose bleeds, headaches, rashes, the plummeting property prices), the corrupt EPA publicly approving polluted drinking water in Dimock but telling residents off the record it isn’t safe… and the earthquakes. Oh and there’s allegations of gas companies using PSYOPs as part of their PR strategy. We are told this happens despite US federal law forbidding the military from using it on US civilians (PSYOPs is propaganda and psychological techniques).
As with any war, truth is an innocent bystander that is annihilated first. In Gaslands II, Lock The Gate’s Drew Hutton is named as founder of the Greens Party. Regardless, the stakes keep getting higher as industry and governments desperately hold onto the insane narrative of a fossil-fuel future. Is there any comfort that we already know this? Gaslands II will be a highlight of the Byron Bay International Film Festival, to be held from February 28 to March 9.
Hans Lovejoy, editor
It seems incomprehensible that a political party – one that claims grassroots origins – should say in its ‘About Us’ webpage that it believes in ‘decentralisation of power to our local communities’ when its practice is quite the opposite.
Parties often profess ideals at odds with their actual policies, but let’s take a step back first. It’s a party with Western Australian rural conservative roots that expanded after a few name changes to include all states in the 1920s. Its constituents were graziers and farmers who wanted – for obvious reasons – to limit union and workers’ rights while also pushing for protectionism (that’s government intervention to protect industry from overseas competition).
And sometime after inception, they aligned themselves with the Liberals at both a state and federal level and generally the pair have been known as ‘the coalition’ ever since.
Like a sucker fish to a shark, they are associated with hard-right policies (that’s free trade, not protectionism).
So fast track to now. Last week the federal Nats were reported by Fairfax as having their political donations rise ‘tenfold in four years’ from coal seam gas companies.
It reflects nicely in their future energy blueprint, which proudly boasts: ‘The coalition will introduce an Exploration Development Incentive that will allow investors to deduct the expense of mining exploration against their taxable income.’
At the state level, last week the NSW National Party faced internal squabbles with the dear Libs after a redistribution of NSW electoral boundaries. Turf wars aside, a freedom of information inquiry last week into communications between Metgasco and NSW Nationals Tweed MP Geoff Provest now no longer exist for public scrutiny. And having local Nationals MP Don Page in power should be beneficial to this community. But those 10,000 people seeking his support to make the region CSG free, or those wanting the return of the Bruns parks to Council could fairly claim he is the minister for Sydney, not his actual portfolio of the north coast.
It was a surprise to learn the West Byron Project developers have yet to address Council staff concerns from 2011 over traffic, housing density and flooding.
One has to wonder what type of development this will become.
A positive so far, however, is the developer’s offer to pay $7,000 per residential lot which would go a long way towards an estimated $8.2 million bypass. But offering the community infrastructure such as roads to get your way – even in good faith – typifies what is wrong with ignoring due process. Why bother with councils at all? When you leapfrog Council to get to the state for large-scale approvals – like Splendour’s Yelgun site or Mullum Woolies – it means developers are instead wearing the boots that popularly elected representatives should be wearing.
It means the community’s voice comes second to the state government and the developer is doing what they want on their own terms.
Ultimately it’s a risk–reward ratio exercise. Almost all developments are for financial gain, so social capital (the public’s goodwill) is weighed up against perceived financial outcomes.
Losing a little social capital here or there is okay if the final outcome means a good cash return. It’s similar to political gains.
But it doesn’t work that way here: many who have ignored the wishes of this engaged and savvy community have failed before. It’s a community with a proven history of repelling inappropriate development.
And that’s where local NSW Nationals MP Don Page comes in.
As with the Brunswick Heads residents currently dealing with an 800-page ‘grand design’ document for their town, the West Byron decision rests with Don, we are told. Still, there is an opportunity for the West Byron Project landowners to make that suburb the envy of all.
One example is just up the road: the Currumbin Eco Village. It’s a community that is based around sustainable housing principles.
Retaining Byron’s unique character should be at the forefront of this development. Let’s hope the developers work with all of us so we can avoid the dull visionless consumeristic urban sprawls that are unfortunately part of the mainstream Australian urban landscape.
Public submissions close this Friday at http://bit.ly/westbyronplans.
If I were tasked with reviewing local government (councils) throughout the state, it would be in my best interests to write something that maintained centralised state power. It’s called keeping your job.
As Leonard Cohen sang, ‘Everybody knows that the dice are loaded.’’
Yes, my report would hose down accusations by councils of state cost-shifting and promote amalgamation of local governments.
And that’s exactly what we have in the local government review, which was released last week. Presumably it provides the region’s state representative (Nationals) and local government MP Don Page with the mandate to promote those recommendations.
Amalgamating shires has never been popular and is of questionable benefit. The Queensland shires of Noosa, Douglas, Mareeba and Livingstone reversed their decision to amalgamate with surrounding shires last year.
As for cost shifting, the state government refuses to explain to The Echo why it won’t return the Brunswick Heads caravan parks and reserves it stole from Byron Council, despite proof it resulted in our local government being financially worse off.
Of course the state wants to maintain power and will take more power from local government/community at every opportunity.
It’s something that is achieved with an uninformed public and complicit media.
But if the state’s 152 councils were to commission a review instead into the NSW government, would that result in better cost savings and efficiency outcomes for the public?
The rorting in NSW Rail, the belligerent NSW Forestry Corporation and the toxic North Coast Holiday Parks would be a great start.
If you look closely, there’s a sentence that remarkably made it into this local government report: ‘People appear satisfied with the performance of local government – more so than with state and federal governments.’
The state’s constant power grabs only help to reinforce that view.
This week, The Echo is proud to introduce Liberal premier of Western Australia, Colin Barnett, as the first troglodyte in our new occasional column: Political dinosaur of the week.
Prerequisites to be included in this column are an inclination to wreck pristine environments and act against conventional science, open transparency, human rights, basic decency and ethical behaviour.
So, who is Colin? This 63-year-old former economics lecturer and barbarian was elected to public office in 1990. He represents the WA Perth electorate of Cottesloe and retained his seat in 2013 with an impressive 64.7 per cent. But ever since taking office, he has racked up a formidable list of accomplishments that hark back to the dark ages.
In 2010, his new drug laws made cannabis cultivation a crime in that state, among other draconian measures.
His contention that marijuana is a gateway drug that leads to harder drugs is incorrect, it’s more of a drive-through drug that leads to cheeseburgers and fries.
Barnett the barbarian also doesn’t like education, having refused Gonski reforms.
But his pièce de résistance was last week annoying almost the entire country, including Byron residents, with his stone-age plan to cull sharks. Every prehistoric predator over three metres will be shot and disposed of at sea if they come within one kilometre of his coastline. Bravo!
Klling off an endangered species at the top of the food chain fits perfectly with the state of current politics.
The likely result will draw a shiver of more sharks into a uncontrollable bloodied feeding frenzy. And just like politics, it will be a wholesale butchery on their brethren. Which would it be more interesting?