THE National Party has been accused of betraying its core constituents by failing to support farmers in their fight against the coal seam gas (CSG) industry.
Anti-CSG campaigners gathered outside the offices of Nationals MPs in Tamworth, Dubbo, Grafton and Lismore to express their anger yesterday.
Dissatisfaction over the Nationals’ support for the industry has been growing as more farmers join with activists to oppose Santos’ plans for the Pilliga.
Two local farmers arrested recently – Ted Borowski and Mark Robinson – have vowed never again to vote for the party that claims to represent regional Australia.
Liverpool Plains farmer Phil Herbert handed a document – dubbed the “Narrabri Resolution” – into the office of Tamworth MP Kevin Anderson yesterday. The document, reportedly unanimously agreed to by 600 people at a recent public meeting, demands that “all levels of government listen to the concerns of farmers and regional communities” and stop CSG operations.
“Our National Party MPs have been missing in action for the last three years, but it’s past time for them to take a stand for their voters and reject the Narrabri CSG project,” Mr Herbert said.
“We want them to understand the feeling behind this. People are feeling let down and frustrated that their concerns are not being listened to.”
The National Party outlines its stance on CSG in its official policy handbook, which reads in part: “Managed properly, coal seam gas has the potential to revitalise parts of regional Australia, delivering a new economic boom.” But the very next sentence contains a warning that alludes to inherent risks in CSG extraction.
“Poorly managed, it could produce an environmental and social disaster,” the document reads.
Revelations this week that a leaking storage pond at Santos’ Bibblewindi facility had contaminated an aquifer is all the evidence Sue Wilmott needs to conclude the industry is poorly managed.
Mrs Wilmott, whose family farms on the Liverpool Plains, said the Nationals must come to the realisation that CSG poses an unacceptable threat to water supplies.
“There’s no guarantee that the water is going to be safe and now we know, because of what’s happened in the Pilliga, that there are actually impacts,” she said.
Mr Anderson said the 20-odd protesters who picketed his office yesterday morning were entitled to voice their opinions.
“We live in a great country and they have a democratic right and I’ll listen and take their concerns on board,” he said.