Protesters massed outside Lismore City Hall and followed State Minister Brad Hazzard into the building to question him on CSG in the Northern Rivers.
Protesters massed outside Lismore City Hall and followed State Minister Brad Hazzard into the building to question him on CSG in the Northern Rivers. Marc Stapelberg

It was loud, but was it clear? Public push anti-CSG message

THE QUESTION of whether vocal public outrage was an appropriate form of expression at Wednesday's coal seam gas meeting at Lismore City Hall continues to haunt the event's aftermath.

While the anger-fuelled atmosphere of the meeting has been defended as understandable by some, other audience members have attacked the conduct of protestors.

Alstonville farmer and NSW Farmers Association executive councillor Kath Robb, who attended to find out more about CSG, described the behaviour as "appalling".

Mrs Robb spoke with two other farmers who left the meeting early because they couldn't see any point in staying.

She described audience members with "an agenda of protesting", not willing to let things proceed in an "orderly and dignified manner".

While a rally before the meeting appeared calm and focused, once Mr Hazzard arrived the tone quickly descended into chants and verbal attacks on him and his panel of public servants.

"It was a very difficult situation to either ask a question or get an answer that we could hear... There's a difference between asking a question or having an assertive opinion and just screaming at people," Mrs Robb said.

"There were some very good questions asked, but by the way people went on I questioned whether they wanted to hear the answer."

Yet political commentator and former Lismore mayor Ros Irwin said the NSW Government had already created a "credibility gap" with their CSG policy that justified the community anger.

"Consultation is something that has to be seen as genuine - if it's not then people will react accordingly," Mrs Irwin said.

She characterised the meeting as "far too little and far too late" and an "attempt to pour oil on troubled water".

"I think people expressing their feelings loudly is an essential part of our political process," Mrs Irwin said.

"Perhaps around issues that are of significant importance into the future, it's appropriate for people to demonstrate how they feel... as long as it doesn't deteriorate into physical violence."

Activism expert and SCU lecturer Aidan Ricketts said the strong feeling in the community of a breakdown in democracy lent itself to a fiery atmosphere.



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