by Katy Smyrk
You better watch out, you better not cry, you better not pout, I’m telling you why. Gina Rinehart is coming to town! And given Ms Rinehart’s voracious appetite for exploiting the land to make a profit, we’ll need to do a lot more than pout.
Gina Rinehart is the richest woman in Australia and the magnanimous CEO of Hancock Prospecting, a company that mines vast amounts of iron ore from Western Australia’s Pilbara and plans to build one of Australia’s largest coalmines in the Gallilee basin in QLD. For the first time, Ms Rinehart has taken an interest in Victoria (other than trying to wrestle control over our media) by buying shares in Lakes Oil.
Lakes Oil is a small company based in Gippsland that has shiny dreams about discovering vast amounts of coal seam gas (CSG) and turning the region into a giant money-making gasfield. In fact, many other companies share their dream, indicated by the blanket of exploration licences that cover the entire region. So far Gina and her counterpart’s attempts have been thwarted by a lack of finances and by pesky restrictions on the hazardous operating practice of fracking. But with her dream team of Alexander Downer (ex-Lib and best friend of the fossil fuel industry) and Ian Plimer (rampant climate denier) now on the board at Lakes Oil, combined with her voluminous pockets, this shouldn’t take long for Gina to rectify.
We’ve seen QLD torn apart by the Coal Seam Gas industry, with gas leaking into the Condamine River, kitchen taps becoming fire hazards and whole families being forced to walk away from their farms. But we have also seen amazing resistance in QLD and NSW to energy giants like Metgasco and AGL by the Lock the Gate movement. This grassroots organisation has mobilised and united people who care about the land, a safe water supply, the health of children and the need for a safe climate, resulting in over 15,000 gates being locked to the CSG industry. In Glenugie, northern NSW, one incredible blockade lasted for 52 days.
Because of the tireless efforts by communities, farmers and environmental groups, NSW Premier Barry O’Farrell last week announced a ban on all CSG activity within two kilometres of residential areas and industry clusters, including the horse breeding and wine producing industries (and he’s a Liberal!),
Victoria has been paying close attention to what has been happening in her sister states to the north. Lock the Gate Gippsland is coming out with all guns blazing and working with Quit Coal to create whole pockets of resistance. Poowong became the very first town (but not the last) in Victoria to have voted to be Coal and CSG Free, holding a declaration on Feb 17th with a crowd of more than 400 people.
All of these things are incredible demonstrations of the power of community and have done amazing and invaluable work in eroding the social licence of CSG. However it is still a very real problem in QLD and NSW and a very real threat for Victoria, especially now that the CSG industry has some serious Hancock Prospecting cash behind it.
All the more reason for us to start spreading the word, start getting mobilised and start preparing to fight with everything we’ve got, to keep more damaging fossil fuels out of our state.
Gina Rinehart is coming to town…Lock the Gate.