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Lee Rhiannon MLC

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Your campaign to say no to Sydney Gas reaches much further than the Wollombi Valley although it's absolutely essential that we not allow even one drill hole to go down for the people of Wollombi and the visitors, this campaign also underlines a need to bring balance to the great rush to exploit natural resources that is going on in Australia and round the world. We need balance, and that balance needs to look at the needs of local communities, the wider needs of the global world and obviously our local environment. So we certainly support your campaign. In terms of the Parliamentary process, I can ask questions I can we can put up private Members Bills to change these laws that are so inadequate but to be frank about it, the way we can have an impact by taking that message into the Parliament is when your voice, the public voice of opposition to Sydney Gas coming into Wollombi is so strong, and so extensive. And that's what we really need to work on. Because as we've heard from speaker after speaker, the law effectively locks us out. You've heard Part 3A mentioned a number of times. It's worth just saying a couple of words about this. Part 3A is a change that came in to the Environment Planning and Assessment Act in 2005 voted on by both Labour and the Coalition. I emphasise the Coalition because I went to a lot of meetings and the Coalition, understandably are very critical of what Frank Sartor is doing. We wouldn't have so many of those laws because prior to this Government prior to this Parliament, with the Coalition and the Greens, and when the Democrats were there in unity we actually had the numbers and we could have defeated the Part 3A going through but it went through and it's a really bad piece of legislation. and I did just want to spell it out. Want to spell it out, not to disempower you but to remind you what it's like and then the need for us to explore other ways to get our voice heard. Because it's our public voice as James [Ryan] has said that puts pressure on the Politicians to do something, to do the right thing. Part 3A gives enormous powers to the Planning Minister. The Planning Minister does not have to take notice of any environmental laws of any heritage laws doesn't even have to take any notice of his own Director General. Doesn't have to accept their advice An environmental impact statement isn't needed in most cases and the community is locked out. So, that's the reality that we're facing you've heard if this comes through as a Part 3A. So what do we do about it It is tough, and I think we need to recognise from the outset how hard it's going to be. because I think that always makes for a stronger campaign. The problem that we also have is that the Governments of this State have traditionally supported Mining interests. We've seen that for two centuries Labour or the Coalition when they're in power They give approval... they grant these exploration leases. They agree to the licences to mine. Then when those operations are in place they need infrastructure, a new railway, new port facilities so often they get it. So again it is tough. But, there's been really some exciting examples recently where communities, through incredible activity have actually been able to push back mining interests and I'll just give you a few of those examples. Because I think there's expreience that these communities had that can help in this campaign. They're not all to do with mining gas but I still think they're relevant. A few years ago, the people of Awaba stopped a big coal mine over on the banks of Lake Macquarie. They had a huge public meeting, about a thousand turned up. I think their advantage actually was that there was much denser population within that area than I see with a lot of the other mining communities that we work with obviously a problem when you're having these campaigns is that often the population is dispersed. but their huge population, strong public voice they got all the politicians down there and the pressure was on you can look in Hansard, where Labour and Coalition MPs actually went into Parliament and spoke along similar lines to the Greens were in support of the community's opposition. And Centennial Coal pulled out of that. Then we have the example that Mike [Atkinson] gave. An interesting one that is quite extraordinary that happened last week. BHP Billiton as you know is one of the most powerful mining companies in the world. Their profits don't come out in Millions of dollars they come out in Billions of dollars. In six months in 2006 their profits were eleven Billion dollars so going up against these companies is tough. Now, we're out at a place called Caroona - Liverpool Plains highly fertile soil. The farmers out there took a stand. And what they did out there they actually had an occupation now we are in the heart of National Party territory out there. They are farmers that have been on their land for six generations. They're people who think, they don't normally work with the Greens they don't normally work with the environment groups. But they had a real concern for their land and no way did they want BHP coming in similar to your situation here with the company coming in saying "oh we just want to do some exploration that's all it is" "just put down a few drill holes" And the farmers realised that that would be the start of the process and that's when they had some power Where Josie [Walker] outlined that you can't stop them coming on to explore, but you can hold them up. So that's been going for quite a long period they've been through the Mining Warden through Arbitration, and they were ready to come onto one farm last week Tim Duddy's farm What did all the farmers do they brought down all their equipment and they blockaded the road. That blockade has been going on for two weeks they've two rosters of the local farmers, so there's always at least twelve people there when people come to meet with them if the media comes a lot more people come Highly organised, highly efficient BHP Billiton then said "oh we won't mine on the flood plains we'll just mine on the ridges". Now this then becomes interesting, what do the community do? because to be quite frank, mining on the ridges is still just as dangerous that's what feeds the aquifers Sorry I didn't explain that one of the big objections here is that the Long Wall Coal Mining would break up the aquifers. So BHP Billiton said "we'll just mine on the ridges" So the locals, I asked some of the farmers what was the response and they said that for about two hours there was uncertainty and concern well, maybe we've had a win, maybe we'll go with it. And they said after they talked about it, they decided the blockade stayed and they kept on fighting because BHP Billiton mining on the ridges was just as damaging to this rich agricultural land and so that battle is still going on. But the significance for us in determining tactics is that their united stand has pushed BHP Billiton back in a way that must rarely happen around the world. And then there's the fantastic experience a few valleys over with Yarramalong and Dooralong. [checks pronunciation] the two valleys at the back of Wyong. Now this is where Sydney Gas went in again again, when you drove up those valleys when the battle was on there was coreflutes on every tree coreflutes those big posters saying NO to Sydney Gas like you have here. And where they had a real breakthrough is that there were some big names in those valleys, well connected, and they had three programmes, I've never seen this in all the campaigns I've done three programmes on A Current Affair talking about how bad that was. That was absolutely fantastic put it centre stage I heard that in a meeting with Mining Minister Mr McDonald he said "can you just back off and stop the bad publicity" so it was obviously getting to him So I just wanted to give those examples as how communities are coming together under situations where they don't have legal rights the community's good sense, common sense isn't being taken into consideration but by being well organised, we can have an impact. So some of the things that I think are worth considering: First off is about the unity within the community. What I've found... I've got the mining portfolio for the Greeens so I work with communities like yourself in different areas. and you see that one of the first things the mining companies do is try and divide the communities. They go in and they try to have private meetings with different landholders to either buy them out or do deals with them to divide the community. It was interesting out at BHP Billiton they have actually been able to buy up some land (sorry out at Caroona where BHP Billiton is) They have been successful and have bought up some land and are negotiating with some farmers. But it's only a handful. The majority of them have not been bought out and what's also important they refuse to meet privately with BHP Billiton representatives. And when you talk to them they always say that they believe that's what's been so important their unity, and BHP Billiton rings up as they did the other day to a farmer I was talking to and say "oh can we just pop in and meet with your family?" He said "Everything you want to say and everything I want to say... I reckon we can do publicly, so let's have a public meeting". And they go cold on that idea. So, working to keeping that unity within the community is really important then there's the media, there's building allies and ensuring that we have that wide-spread opposition on display at every opportunity like the coreflutes through the valley the fantastic media you've already got and I congratulate the people who have been behind getting the stories onto Stateline and the Telegraph I know how hard that is but having that strong public voice really does send a message to Macquarie Street, to Sydney Gas, it'll be tough but we can do it. Thanks very much.

Video Details

Duration: 10 minutes and 32 seconds
Year: 2008
Country: Australia
Language: English
Producer: Peter Firminger
Director: Peter Firminger
Views: 210
Posted by: wage on Aug 19, 2008

Lee Rhiannon MLC (NSW Greens) speaking at the Wollombi Valley Against Gas Extraction Meeting titled "Why we say NO to Sydney Gas".

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