A protest of 250 people took place outside NSW parliament on March 15. It was organised by anti-coal seam gas (CSG) groups Stop CSG Sydney and Stop CSG Illawarra.
The action coincided with the parliamentary debate of a petition, signed by 20,000 people, calling for a statewide moratorium on CSG mining, a royal commission into its effects and an immediate ban on fracking.
Earlier that same morning, NSW Greens MLC Jeremy Buckingham put a motion to the parliament’s upper house that called for a one-year moratorium on CSG. The motion was defeated 19 votes to 16, with Coalition, Shooters and Fishers and Christian Democrat MLCs voting against it.
Several CSG campaigners spoke at the March 15 rally.
Jess Moore from Stop CSG Illawarra told the rally that 74% of the people in NSW support the aims of the petition. She vowed: “We will not stop speaking, marching, campaigning or even blockading until this industry is stopped.”
Friar Greg Burke from Camden area spoke of his community’s battle against CSG and the lack of government concern for the health risks to ordinary people in a community that includes many disadvantaged groups.
However, he said a positive aspect of the campaign was the new bonds that had been created between people. He encouraged continued action until the CSG industry is stopped in NSW.
Shirley Gladding, a campaigner from Stop CSG Illawarra, said that although the government continues to ignore communities, communities are getting stronger and more organised. She said Stop CSG Illawarra’s work included constant grassroots actions such as regular organising meetings, movie screenings and stalls.
Graham Gibson, a farmer from the Hunter Valley, also addressed the rally. He ridiculed the Liberal minister Duncan Gay’s suggestion that coal seam gas and agriculture could peacefully coexist.
After the rally, the protesters moved to enter parliament to watch the debate from the public gallery. Even though there was ample room for most protesters to fit, only about 50 people were allowed entry.
Those in the gallery were told they could not wear T-shirts with anti coal seam gas messages on them. They were also stopped from carrying water bottles that symbolised the toxic water produced from CSG wells around the state.
On March 16, Stop CSG Illawarra said the parliamentary debate “was an insult to the 20,000 plus petitioners, to each and every one of us, who called on the government to act.
“In both Houses, Coalition members showed absolute contempt for the people of NSW. The Coalition called a moratorium irresponsible, saying that the government must wait for more facts. But it is completely irresponsible to develop an industry before getting the facts.”
The group said: “The government is failing to act for the people of NSW; so we must. As the Coalition scrambles to defend the indefensible, we must launch a people’s moratorium and lock the industry out of our communities.”