AN ominous warning was sounded to Queensland landholders this month, alerting those on the agriculture and mining belts that peak production of coal seam gas (CSG) is yet to occur.
In short, if landholders thought they had it bad under the current climate, they ain’t seen nothing yet!
The warning came not from green groups, resource sector watchdogs or concerned community advocates, but from the State’s peak grazier and farmer organisation, AgForce, innocuously encouraging members to attend its CSG information workshops this month at Monto, Moura, Wandoan and Dalby.
AgForce’s CSG project officer, Daniel Phipps, said the workshops aimed to equip landholders with the information they needed to get the most out of their agreements with resource companies.
“There are approximately 5000 production wells across Queensland and CSG production is expected to peak over the next 10 to 15 years, increasing the number of wells to between 20,000 and 40,000 – meaning those landholders not yet affected by industry may be approached by resource companies,” Mr Phipps said.
“Landholders that already have an agreement with a CSG company should also remain informed, as agreements may change as activities do and staying up to date with recent developments will help landholders negotiate better agreements down the line.”
The “recent developments” to which Mr Phipps refers is the passing of the Mineral and Energy Resources (Common Provisions) Bill 2014, which has drawn fire from landholders, Property Rights Australia and legal experts since it was passed in the Queensland Parliament on September 9 under the rule of Mines Minister Andrew Cripps.
The bill has received applause from Queensland Resources Council, which last week through its CEO Michael Roche forecast an increase of coal exports while slapping down the activities of “professional environmental activists” who continue to “disrupt and delay key projects through various methods including litigation”.
Mr Cripps and Deputy Premier Jeff Seeney, who appears to have taken over the selling of the controversial bill, have used a similar tactic in defending their position and promoting their policy – deflecting criticism of the bill by labelling their detractors as green crusaders or extremists.
Farmers should be aware of organisations backed by Greenpeace or WWF purporting to be the farmers' friend, but many of those concerned about the bill have no connection to green groups or their politics – only a connection to their homes and businesses that they fear will be swallowed by the mining expansion, seemingly facilitated by a government which has become captured by the special interests of the resources industry.
Primary producers critically need a strong and independent voice to give them impartial information without fear or favour. Since the mining bill was introduced last month, the silence from AgForce on the issue has been deafening, despite the space it is given in Queensland Country Life every week to state its position and probe the government on the impact of its bill.
Instead, AgForce’s first reference to the bill was in the promotional flyer it issued last week alerting landholders to “legislation changes” ... which “indicated objection rights for large mines would be changed”.
“The bill proposes a range of changes including amendments to the current right of objection and the definition of restricted land, but the changes will also give effect to the recommendations of the Land Access Implementation Committee which includes some positive outcomes for landholders,” Mr Phipps said.
They are hardly fighting words and are further weakened by the involvement of the Queensland Resources Council, the Australian Petroleum Production and Exploration Association (APPEA) and the Queensland government in helping to deliver the workshops when the mining industry is naked in its ambitions to increase operations – a strategy that implicitly requires the involvement of landholders and the acquisition of their land and assets, either by co-operation or coercion.
AgForce members are within their rights to ask questions of the new executive led by president Grant Maudsley about what part AgForce is playing – either knowingly or unknowingly – in helping to advance the agenda of mining magnates over the interests of primary producers in Queensland’s agricultural heartland.