Bentley4The script is being set for a re-run of the last year’s blockbuster Battle of Bentley.

Despite the courage and peaceful determination of the people to protect their region from invasive industrial gasfields the monster is again roaring its terrible roars and gnashing it’s terrible teeth.

It’s a sad tale of a brave people, a weak government and a speculative company with a broken business model.

Judging by Metgasco’s latest sabre rattling release earlier this week the company’s only business model consists of mining under martial law or seeking pay-outs from the public purse. The tale of the fall and fall of Metgasco’s should become compulsory reading for all student extractopaths to teach them why social license actually matters.

But leaving the tragic audacity of Metgasco’s latest declaration of war aside, lets return to the heart of the problem.
A weak and obsequious state government.

The prospect of a speculative miner threatening to use litigation to force a government to renew an expired exploration license is living proof of just how weak NSW mining and petroleum legislation is. The laws need to be changed. The NSW parliament has the undeniable clear and unfettered constitutional power and democratic mandate to cancel all of Metgascos’s licences with no issue of compensation arising.

The Baird government continues to cower in the corner, pretending its hands are tied by current legislation and playing victim to appalling displays of corporate bullying, But they are not helpless, just weeks ago government MPs voted down legislative amendments put forward by opposition parties that would have taken the baseball bat out of Metgasco’s hands once and for all. There is now simply no excuse.

The NSW gas plan is an abject failure. Demonstrably, existing legislation places mining companies over and above the elected government.

We all know that there is a revolving door between high political office and the mining industry. We have seen the massive donations and the corresponding massive subsidies enjoyed by the mining and fossil fuel industries, if the state government and what’s left of its Northern Rivers MPs continue to feign helplessness in the face of Metgasco’s threats then we truly do have a crisis of democracy.

There’s such an easy solution, simply legislate to cancel all of the Northern Rivers licences with peppercorn (or zero) compensation. Job done, bye bye Metgasco: no drain on the taxpayers money, no mining under martial law.

This article was originally published in the Northern Rivers Echo on 3 September, 2015

 

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