Drew Hutton of Lock the Gate launches 'Call to Country'
THE issue of coal seam gas has the potential to influence the outcome of the federal election, the president of the Lock The Gate Alliance says.
Drew Hutton was in Canberra on Thursday to launch the LTGA's federal election campaign, Call to Country - a list of policy demands for national law reform on coal and gas mining.
LTGA campaigners attached Call to Country posters to the electorate office doors of all 150 federal lower house MPs on Thursday.
Mr Hutton said it was important the Federal Government used its constitutional power to take control of the approval process, claiming states had a vested interest in seeing mining projects proceed.
He predicted a number of marginal seats would be up for grabs at the federal election because of the CSG issue, particularly in New South Wales.
"Even though people are writing the Gillard government off I think it is far too early to do that and I think it could be a really close election and this (CSG) could be an issue that determines the outcome of that election," Mr Hutton told reporters in Canberra.
Mr Hutton said the O'Farrell government's failure to do more than "simply promise to ban coal seam gas in western Sydney" could make the Coalition vulnerable come September 14, with electorates in the Hunter and other regional parts of the state also "in play".
And he laid much of the blame for this situation at the feet of NSW Nationals MPs, accusing them of "failing their constituents".
"I think quite a lot of National Party seats will be in danger ... especially in western NSW where I think a little while ago people thought independents were going to be in trouble," he said.
"Now I predict that National Party members will be in trouble, especially from anti-coal and coal seam gas independents."
Mr Hutton said the LTGA would get behind any party that took a responsible policy approach on the issue.
But he said because Labor was in government and had the power to take immediate action it was in a better position to win the anti-CSG vote at the federal election.
"What we're saying to both parties is you can get a steal on the other party by doing the right thing in this area," he said.
"If he's (Environment Minister Tony Burke) prepared to show some guts and if the Labor government ... is prepared to implement legislation which is along the lines of we are suggesting then Labor steals a good march on them and we would support them in the election campaign. If the Coalition does the same we would support them."
Mr Hutton said there were no plans to field LTGA candidates.Innes Larkin, who operates the Mt Barney Lodge on the NSW/Queensland border, was also in Canberra for the launch.
He made the point 11 of Australia's 16 National Landscapes, including the Great Barrier Reef, were "directly impacted" by CSG and coal mining.
"Fifty per cent of the Great Barrier Reef is gone. That's something we can't do anything about, but we can stop the industrialisation of the ... reef which will contribute to further degradation," Mr Larkin said.
As part of its campaign the LTGA has also released mapping which shows 437 million hectares of Australia is covered by coal and gas licences or applications.
"That is more than half of Australia and an area 18 times the size of Great Britain," Mr Hutton said.
CALL TO COUNTRY
The Lock The Gate Alliance is calling the Federal Government to:
- Put in place an urgent moratorium on coal seam gas and other unconventional gas mining.
- Create "no-go zones" to protect productive agricultural land, national tourism icons and all residential dwellings from coal and gas mining.
- Strengthen the federal environment laws to exclude coal and gas mining from important water sources, cultural heritage sites and sensitive environment areas.
- Put in place national standards on coal and gas pollution and enforce compliance.
- Stop using taxpayers' money to provide handouts to big coal and gas corporations and make the miners pay their fair share in taxes.
- Reject current development proposals for coal ports, mega-mines, dams and unconventional gas wells in significant areas.
- Conduct research into greenhouse gas emissions from mining and make sure they are properly accounted and fully paid for.
- Hold a Royal Commission to investigate the management of coal and gas resources by all Australian governments.