Ian Macfarlane
Ian Macfarlane Kara Irving

CSG campaign fails to sway Minister Macfarlane at Canberra

THE latest survey suggests Richmond Valley residents are against coal-seam gas, but that has not swayed Federal Industry Minister Ian Macfarlane's support for the industry.

Yesterday Mr Macfarlane met with Northern Rivers stakeholders in Canberra including anti-CSG groups, farmers, local dairy and beef industry representatives, local MPs, and Metgasco chief executive Peter Henderson.

Lock the Gate spokesman Ian Gaillard declared the issue had now become a "test for democracy" - but Mr Macfarlane questioned the level of local opposition to the industry around Casino.

While Southern Cross University released a survey showing 65% of Richmond Valley residents opposed CSG, Mr Macfarlane cited earlier polls - one conducted by Richmond Valley Council which showed 70% support for the industry - if it was clean and proved economic beneficially.

The local member for Page, Kevin Hogan, said to me there were 7000 protesters at a protest - he has over 100,000 people in his electorate - that doesn't sound like a majority to me

"The local member for Page, Kevin Hogan, said to me there were 7000 protesters at a protest - he has over 100,000 people in his electorate - that doesn't sound like a majority to me," Mr Macfarlane said.

"The bulk of the people at the meeting yesterday agreed whatever we do should be based on science. If the science says it's not going to cause any damage, and if the farmer wants them on the property, then why haven't they got the right to do it?

"In Queensland we've got 4000 co-existence agreements, we've got farmers earning up to $6 million over the next 20 years... and the CSG companies are there at the invitation of the farmer."

Peter Henderson said the meeting was a step towards a "mature discussion" about the future of the industry on the Northern Rivers. "No one's expecting people to give an unqualified yes to the industry; it ought to be a qualified yes subject to us being responsible and having appropriate controls in place."

Mr Gaillard said the anti-CSG community appreciated getting a seat at the table, but the meeting was partly a show of "vested interests", and declared continued "opposition in full". "Ian Macfarlane is leading the charge front and centre to get, as he says, every molecule of gas out of the ground," he said.

Page MP Kevin Hogan said he was happy that all parties had the opportunity to have their say.



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