A Greens Bill to protect NSW from the invasive coal seam gas industry failed in the Legislative Council by just three votes — 16 to 19 — on August 13.
The Liberal National Coalition and Shooters and Fishers Party voted to protect the unconventional gas industry, while repeating the lie that it could co-exist with agriculture and pristine water catchments.
In a reflection of the weight of the people-powered campaign across the state, Jeremy Buckingham’s Petroleum (Onshore) Amendment (Prohibit Coal Seam Gas) Bill 2015 received support from the NSW Labor Party, Fred Nile’s Christian Democrats and the Animal Justice Party in its second reading speech.
The NSW Labor Party said it would support the bill with its own amendments. These would have transformed it from a bill to phase out the industry to an industry moratorium and a ban in several key areas of NSW, including Sydney’s water catchments, the Northern Rivers and the catchment area for the Great Artesian Basin.
Several Liberal and National MPs argued, unconvincingly, that the Baird government’s hastily drawn up “Gas Plan”, just before the state election, “guaranteed” all the protections rural industries needed from the gas industry.
But it was Peter Phelps, the Baird government whip, who exposed the Coalition’s ideological agenda. He lashed out at the broad city-rural movement, which has changed the face of politics in NSW, describing campaign activists as “lunatics”, “suckers”, “sociopaths” and “Stalinists”. Without a hint of irony, and with several farmers watching from the Legislative Council gallery, he said the bill was an “existential threat” to farming.
Activists were disappointed, and angry, but vowed to keep up the fight. “If the NSW government thinks this settles the matter, they’re in for a shock”, Shirley Gladding from Stop CSG Illawarra told Green Left Weekly. Margaret from Camden, who wants AGL to stop drilling there, said the same. “There is no other option. The industry is dangerous.”