Anyone with a passing interest in history could see things have come full circle.
The original inhabitants, the Gomeroi Nation, are gathering to defend country from a new invasion force of foreign mining companies and their fly in/fly out workforce.
The Gomeroi join with the 95 per cent of surveyed Liverpool Plains farmers who don’t want CSG on their land and have locked their gates. They are supported by the environmentalists, scientists and religious leaders who have also heard the “call to country”. In a twinkling the battleground has shifted from the blockades and rallies to the courtrooms and boardrooms of Australia.
The environment and all of us who depend upon it have witnessed its protections whittled away by successive governments. Coalition governments have been particularly active in this area.
From 1906, the Mining Act (NSW) gave the power of veto to protect agricultural land from mining. In 1973 the Liberal/Country Party and then again in 1992 the Liberal/National Party piecemeal extinguished this power of veto without compensation. The incoming NSW Coalition Government has moved even further to ensure that no farmland is off limits to mining.
Last week Nationals senators including the candidate for the electorate of New England, Barnaby Joyce, failed to pass the EPBC water trigger, the important federal bill sponsored by Tony Windsor. Like the Murray Darling Basin Plan which regulates water that flows across state boundaries it seems logical that impacts to this water caused by large coal and gas mines be regulated and approved federally as well.
For the miners and their political friends the emergence of the Gomeroi Nation as a committed force must be disturbing indeed.
The building alliance of ordinary Australians calling for responsible mining, the prospect of lengthy court battles and the waning economics of coal, highlights the role of the final arbiters of the destructive fossil fuels industry, the investors.
The risk/reward ratio is turning negative for bankers and shareholders alike. In the North West, the coal price slump has made some local mines unviable and they are being kept open by “Take or Pay” contracts designed to support the existing coal infrastructure.
Ethical and strategic money is hitting the exits as the threat of a carbon bubble makes 80 per cent of fossil fuels unburnable due to climate change.
Recent history shows that the Gomeroi’s story is being repeated again but to a different people. Their arguments that we protect country and culture still ring true and the importance of this message for the good of our people, planet and future are lost on no one.
*Phil Laird is a Boggabri farmer and a spokesman for the Maules Creek Community Council and regular opinion writer and columnist.