Farms and farmers used as ‘feedstock’ for CSG industry
LETTER TO THE EDITOR
What is worse than an uninvited guest who arrives to stay at your home, overstays their welcome and leaves you with a big mess to clean up?
This is the reality for many farmers across Queensland who have been forced by law and government policy to ‘host’ the unconventional gas industry and their polluting wells on their land.
All of the discussion around the Federal Government’s push for a ‘gas-fired economic recovery’ has failed to mention that in order to extract more gas the industry will need to impose onto and harm more Australian farming communities.
The permitting process that enables the gas industry to explore for gas or build a well on a farm only considers broad environmental values, with streamlined conditions and application processes.
It fails to consider the farmer’s domestic, workplace and business needs that are then so significantly disrupted by the gas industry activities.
This can include the building of access roads and well pads on their land, the possible pollution or draining of groundwater, land subsidence, increased noise and dust and so on.
Additionally, the permitting process is undertaken by bureaucrats representing state governments with conflicting interests.
On one hand they are promoting the polluting gas industry and on the other supposedly enforcing compliance.
Coal seam gas exploration and mining, including fracking, is the most wicked problem farmers across Australia face, it’s like a terrible, slow accident.
And yet, they’re not considered at all as part of the gas supply chain.
The only consideration farmers get is in a single forced commercial contract negotiated with huge multinational gas companies to provide access to their property.
This directly opposes the rights they were given when they bought their land.
Politicians and decision makers, who don’t live with the contaminating industry on their land, talk of compensation as a new bag of money a farmer can use as an ‘off farm income’.
However, the reality is ‘compensation’ by definition is to address a loss that has occurred, and farmers are only compensated for a limited list of liabilities that don’t address the day-to-day negative impacts on their operation.
And, no compensation is available to neighbouring farms who may be just as impacted as the host farmer.
Additionally, the contract is ‘negotiated’ without any firm information on what the actual future experience and impacts will be for the farmer.
The contract also spans multiple generations, meaning future farmers on the property will also be bound by it, with no room for renegotiation.
In an environment of increasing red tape for agriculture, the Federal Government – which is being advised by the hand-picked National COVID-19 Commission, largely made up of men with links to the gas industry - want to further reduce red tape for the gas industry.
This will mean further reducing the already pitiful regulatory protection for Australian farmers.
This will lead to increased negative impacts on farms and farmers, the draining of the natural resources farmers rely on - including water - in order to boost another sector.
This is not acceptable and certainly not in the public interest.
With Prime Minister Scott Morrison and lobby groups like the Australian Petroleum Production and Exploration Association all spruiking gas on behalf of the multinational gas industry, no one is looking out for the farmers expected to take one for the team.
Because, make no mistake, that magical tap out there that is turned on to ‘get the gas’ is actually thousands of little taps on farms across Australia, with the unwanted guest imposing on the families growing your wheat, barley, bacon and beef.
I live and work on Aboriginal land, and pay my respects to their Elders past, present and emerging.
Independent safety consultant and landholder advocate in Chinchilla