NSW Premier Barry O’Farrell snubbed 20,000 people from around NSW who added their name to the call for coal seam gas to be debated in parliament when he failed to show for a handover of petitions outside parliament yesterday.
Before the state election O’Farrell promised a parliamentary debate on any issue with a petition that received over 10,000 signatures of support. For the past few months community groups from around the state concerned about CSG development have collected signatures and yesterday rallied outside of Parliament House in Sydney hoping to give the petitions to the Premier.
Rally organisers sent a request to O’Farrell on 26 October inviting him to attend the event. Even with four weeks notice, the Premier failed to show up.
The protesters sung "C’mon Barry, c’mon, c’mon" before chanting "Shame, Barry, shame" when told the Premier did not intend to come outside to meet with them.
Jess Moore from community action group Stop CSG Illawarra called the snub "obnoxious" and said that O’Farrell’s no-show was a mark of disrespect toward the thousands of people from around the state who are worried about the CSG industry. "He’s not taking this issue seriously," she said.
O’Farrell’s Coalition colleague Gareth Ward fronted the rally to receive the petitions and assured the crowd he would pass them on to the Premier.
Ward said that the issue of CSG would be debated in parliament because the community demanded it — but was quick to remind the crowd that the existing CSG exploration and production licences had been granted under previous Labor governments.
Opposition Leader John Robertson responded telling the rally that his party is now calling for a suspension of all CSG licences until studies had been undertaken to verify that underground water would be protected. "We do not want to see any new coal seam gas licences," he said.
Protesters said they welcomed Labor’s "back-flip" on CSG and invited the Coalition to support Labor’s newly adopted position.
Greens MLA Jamie Parker and Labor MLA Ryan Park also attended the rally and committed to supporting a "real debate" on CSG.
The petition calls on the state government to impose a ban on fracking. It calls for a royal commission into the impacts of CSG and for an immediate moratorium on the industry.
Lock the Gate president Drew Hutton told the rally that the there was already a people’s moratorium against CSG. Referring to the recent successful blockade against Santos by Liverpool Plains farmers, Hutton said industry and government could expect continuing "respectful civil disobedience". He said, "Every time the gas companies try to come on to our land we will blockade them, we will block the gate to lock the gate."
Premier O’Farrell made no comment on his no-show at the community rally.
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