Queensland Government wants CSG come hell or high water

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The Queensland Government seeks to massively expand CSG development in Queensland despite real environmental risks. Tim Badrick explains.

How dare Queensland premier Anna Bligh question the legitimacy of the findings contained in a departmental coal seam gas assessment which was conducted by Dr Geoff Edwards, a former Queensland Department of Mines and Energy principal policy officer?

No, Bligh has not directly done so, but her scathing and unwarranted attack on federal senator Bill Heffernan, as the chairman of the senate inquiry into the impact of CSG development on the Murray-Darling basin, is nothing short of backstabbing Dr Edwards. This choreographed dummy-spit by Bligh, which is detailed in The Australian newspaper, proves beyond any doubt that Bligh and the Queensland Labor government has got a fanatical capitalist agenda to bludgeon Queensland with coal seam gas regardless of all the potential risks, which are currently being investigated by the senate committee headed by Heffernan. Given the Liberal National Party's bipartisan support for CSG in Queensland, and refusal to back a full moratorium of the industry at the present time, one would have to be suspect that a likely change of government in Queensland next year won’t be putting the brakes on the sort of gung-ho and reckless CSG at all costs agenda which Queensland Labor is currently responsible for.

As the article clearly outlines, Dr Edwards placed on record that, in his objective professional opinion, the pace of giving approval for coal seam gas projects in Queensland has been far too hasty and has never adequately allowed for thorough and scientifically reputable investigations to be conducted before many of the projects were given the go ahead. How Bligh could make a press statement to The Australian without making any reference to the report tabled by Dr Edwards – which one would assume has a major bearing and influence on the senate inquiry into CSG impact on the Murray-Darling – defies belief and only goes to show that yuppie city-slicker Bligh could not care less about sustainable farming in Queensland or protecting the Artesian Basin from potential and permanent contamination, courtesy of unrestricted coal seam gas development in the future.

Ironically, the only concession which the Queensland government has made to protect some cropping farmland from CSG development, the Strategic Land Cropping bill, was passed yesterday in the Queensland Parliament. While it is a good start, as a way of recognising the importance of protecting farmland in Queensland for future domestic food security, the fact is the legislation only extends to a few specific regions in Queensland, leaving the rest of Queensland at the mercy of the common law, which has been doctored to allow gas companies and the government of the day (Labor or LNP) to do exactly what they like and force people to co-exist with CSG development — or else basically take a hike, get market value for their property and walk off the land. Heffernan is a gutsy individual to take the stand that he has on behalf of regional Australia and farmers who are up against coal seam gas. Dr Edward's December 2006 report has fallen on deaf ears in Queensland; both major political parties are pushing CSG come hell or high water, with only a few tacky and lacklustre concessions to appease farmers, who often don’t have a clue about CSG and the green brigade.

To highlight the present ignoramus attitude within the Queensland Government on the issue, the director of the Queensland Department of Premier and Cabinet, John Bradley, has made it known in The Australian, in response to observations made by Dr Edwards, that the banning of evaporation ponds to dispose of saline waste water from CSG should be seen as the Labor Party's great act of redemption to spare farm-land in Queensland from the negative impacts of excessive CSG development. In a very vague and ambiguous way, Bradley goes on to mention that new CSG development approvals are only given after a two year long public consultation and after an independent scientific review is conducted for each and every individual application. I wonder how independent these scientific reviews are Mr Bradley? Do you care to share with us which scientists are the ones undertaking the reviews on behalf of the government? This is one situation where privacy laws should be abandoned so that all Queenslanders know exactly what the Heffernan led senate CSG inquiry is considering, while Queenslanders continue to be left in the dark by our own politicians.

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