Friday, 3 October 2014

The NSW Baird Government's limited response to widespread community concerns regarding coal seam gas exploration and mining

With regard to coal seam/unconventional gas industry exploration licence issues, the NSW Baird Coalition Government has:

* put a hold on CSG exploration and extraction in the Sydney Water Catchment
Special Areas
* put a 6 month freeze on new petroleum exploration licence applications, which was extended by a further 12 months to September 2015
* undertaken to audit existing petroleum exploration licences
* designated the Santos Narrabri Gas Project and AGL’s Gloucester Gas Project as
Strategic Energy Projects
* signed an MOU with Santos to streamline the assessment process for the Narrabri
Gas Project
* renewed AGL’s Gloucester petroleum exploration licence and granted an activity
approval to fracture stimulate four wells. [NSW Chief Scientist, September 2014]

In addition it has suspended approval to drill on one exploration license PEL 13 on the NSW North Coast.

Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott's truly bizarre advisers - Example One

The Sydney Morning Herald 1 October 2014:

Tony Abbott's top business adviser says the Bureau of Meteorology is caught up in global warming politics and nothing short of an independent review will dispel suspicions of bias.
Maurice Newman, who chairs the Prime Minister's Business Advisory Council, is highly critical of the BoM's process of homogenising climate records.
Mr Newman questioned the way the bureau adjusts historical data, which he equates to manipulation of Australia's temperature records…..
Employing more than 1700 people and costing taxpayers $300 million a year to run, the bureau must "dispel suspicions of a warming bias", Mr Newman says.
"Trust in our national climate records is critical.
"Nothing short of a thorough government-funded review and audit, conducted by independent professionals, will do."

Thursday, 2 October 2014

Three days late, but finally the media reports Clarence Valley's disillusionment with NSW Labor

On 30 September 2014 NSW Opposition Leader John Robertson announced state Labor’s ‘CSG Free’ Northern Rivers policy which would impose a permanent total ban on coal seam gas exploration and mining within the Northern Rivers – while at the same time he carefully excised the southern-most parts of the Northern Rivers from that ban.
It took another two days before the media deigned to notice that the Clarence Valley was not amused by Robertson’s bypassing of the July 2014 NSW Labor State Conference resolution which sought to also protect the Clarence Valley.
However, on 2 October 2014 journalist Kate Matthews finally gave this valley a voice in response in The Daily Examiner article Clarence left out in the coal:

A PLEDGE to ban coal seam gas mining in key seats across the North Coast has been criticised by an anti-CSG group concerned that the Clarence Valley remains at risk.
State Opposition leader John Robertson earlier this week announced CSG exploration and extraction would be banned permanently across the Northern Rivers if the ALP won the state election in March.
The policy does not extend to the Clarence Valley and Gasfield Free Northern Rivers (GFNR) spokeswoman Lynette Eggins said she couldn't understand why.
"Obviously we're all upset and disillusioned. To be left out is insidious," she said.
"Everyone knows the Clarence is part of the Northern Rivers.
"We should be looking at banning CSG across the whole of NSW, not just the Northern Rivers."
Ms Eggins said Clarence Valley residents were among the first to condemn the CSG mining process.
The 2012 Glenugie blockade, south of Grafton, was the first in a series of protests targeting the process.
"GFNR spokesman Dean Draper said the Northern Rivers community overwhelmingly opposed CSG mining and politicians needed to heed the message.
Greens mining spokesman Jeremy Buckingham said the Opposition should include the rest of the state in its ban.
"While the Greens welcome the Labor announcement banning unconventional gas in specific North Coast council areas, it is disappointing that Labor are making their coal seam gas policy based on cynical electoral politics rather than basic principles of protecting land, water and communities everywhere in NSW," Mr Buckingham said. "Labor were the party that unleashed coal seam gas across a third of NSW by issuing 39 exploration licences when they were last in office." Earlier this week the NSW Coalition Government extended its ban on new CSG exploration licence applications for another year.
The Daily Examiner contacted the office of Mr Robertson for comment but did not receive a response.
A protest march is planned for November 1 in Lismore, calling on the government to cancel all gas licences covering the Northern Rivers.

The battle for citizens to retain the right to 'protest in order to protect' continues in Abbott's Australia

Industries and individual businesses with a history of severe environment degradation or pollution have never liked this the fact that COMPETITION AND CONSUMER ACT 2010 - SECT 45DD exists:

Situations in which boycotts permitted……..

Dominant purpose of conduct relates to environmental protection or consumer protection
             (3)  A person does not contravene, and is not involved in a contravention of, subsection 45D(1)45DA(1) or 45DB(1) by engaging in conduct if:
                     (a)  the dominant purpose for which the conduct is engaged in is substantially related to environmental protection or consumer protection; and
                     (b)  engaging in the conduct is not industrial action.

Note 1:       If an environmental organisation or a consumer organisation is a body corporate:
(a)    it is a "person" who may be subject to the prohibitions in subsections 45D(1)45DA(1) and 45DB(1) and who may also be covered by this exemption; and
(b)    each of its members is a "person" who may be subject to the prohibitions in subsections 45D(1)45DA(1) and 45DB(1) and who may also be covered by this exemption.

Note 2:       If an environmental organisation or a consumer organisation is not a body corporate:
(a)    it is not a "person" and is therefore not subject to the prohibitions in subsections 45D(1)45DA(1) and 45DB(1) (consequently, this exemption does not cover the organisation as such); but
(b)    each of its members is a "person" who may be subject to the prohibitions in subsections 45D(1)45DA(1) and 45DB(1) and who may also be covered by this exemption.

Apparently enough submissions were received on the subject of secondary boycotts that the Harper Competition Policy Review September 2014 Draft Report included this recommendation and comment:
Draft Recommendation 32 — Secondary boycotts proceedings
Jurisdiction in respect of the prohibitions in sections 45D, 45DA, 45DB, 45E and 45EA should be extended to the state and territory Supreme Courts.
A number of submissions raised the issue of the environmental and consumer exception to the secondary boycott prohibition. Consumer and environmental organisations argued for retention (or expansion) of the exception, while industry groups and others argued for its removal.
During consultations undertaken by the Panel, it appeared that the primary concern expressed by industry representatives is that environmental groups may damage a supplier in a market through a public campaign targeting the supplier that may be based on false or misleading information.
A question might arise whether a public campaign undertaken by an environmental or consumer  organisation against a trading business, advocating that customers ought not purchase products from the business, should be subject to the laws prohibiting false, misleading and deceptive conduct.
Presently, those laws only apply insofar as a person is engaged in trade or commerce.
However, expanding the laws concerning false, misleading or deceptive conduct to organisations  involved in public advocacy campaigns directed at trading businesses raises complex issues.
Many public advocacy campaigns directed at trading businesses concern health issues (e.g. tobacco, alcohol  and fast food) or social issues (e.g. gambling).
Consideration of the expansion of those laws in that context is beyond the Terms of Reference of the Review.
On the other hand, where an environmental or consumer group takes action that directly impedes the lawful commercial activity of others (as distinct from merely exercising free speech), a question arises whether that activity should be encompassed by the secondary boycott prohibition.
The Panel invites further comment on this issue.

However, the draft report recommendation possibly opens the door for extending consumer and environmental protection permitted boycott provisions to all states and territories if a matter concerning this issue reaches their Supreme Courts, because two (45D & 45DA) of the five prohibition sections mentioned are in effect subject to the aforementioned 45DD consumer protection and environmental protection exemptions.

The Harper Review’s final report is due before the end of March 2015.

Concerned citizens need to watch the Abbott Government response to that final report because many of its ideology warriors are not above muttering underneath their breath about ‘green terrorists’.

Abbott's parliamentary troops have publicly broken ranks with their leader

Senator Dean Smith, Chair Western Australia, LP
Laurie Ferguson MP, Deputy Chair Werriwa, New South Wales, ALP
Andrew Laming MP Bowman, Queensland, LP
Ken Wyatt AM MP Hasluck, Western Australia, LP
Senator Matthew Canavan Queensland, NAT
David Gillespie MP Lyne, New South Wales, NAT
Senator Carol Brown Tasmania, ALP
Senator Claire Moore Queensland, ALP
Michelle Rowland MP Greenway, New South Wales, ALP
Senator Penny Wright South Australia, AG

The Committee has the following brief:

a) to examine Bills for Acts, and legislative instruments, that come before either
House of the Parliament for compatibility with human rights, and to report to
both Houses of the Parliament on that issue;
b) to examine Acts for compatibility with human rights, and to report to both
Houses of the Parliament on that issue;
c) to inquire into any matter relating to human rights which is referred to it by the
Attorney-General, and to report to both Houses of the Parliament on that

To date this committee has considered 140 legislative instruments received between 2 August and 5 September 2014 and, on 24 September 2014 the majority Coalition component (3 Liberals, 2 Nationals) finally found the spine a national electorate had thought lost forever by voting to inform Parliament, the Prime Minister and Cabinet that the government’s policies concerning unemployment and superannuation: (i) limits the citizen’s right to social security, an adequate standard of living, an adequate standard of health care; (ii) discriminates on the basis of age; and (iii) breaches the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) to which Australia became a signatory in 1972 and ratified in 1975.

Excerpts from the Committee’s Twelfth Report of the 44th Parliament September 2014:

Minerals Resource Rent Tax Repeal and Other Measures Bill
Portfolio: Treasury
Introduced: House of Representatives, 1 September 2014
1.50 The Minerals Resource Rent Tax Repeal and Other Measures Bill 2014 (the
bill) would repeal the mineral resources rent tax (MRRT) by repealing a number of
acts (Schedule 1).1
It would also make consequential amendments to other
required as a result of the repeal of the MRRT (Schedules 2 - 9)……

Committee view on compatibility
Right to social security
1.56 The right to social security is guaranteed by article 9 of the International
Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR). This right recognises the
importance of adequate social benefits in reducing the effects of poverty and plays
an important role in realising many other economic, social and cultural rights,
particularly the right to an adequate standard of living and the right to health.
1.57 Access to social security is required when a person has no other income and
has insufficient means to support themselves and their dependents. Enjoyment of
the right requires that sustainable social support schemes are:
*  available to people in need;
*  adequate to support an adequate standard of living and health care; and
*  accessible (providing universal coverage without discrimination and
qualifying and withdrawal conditions that are lawful, reasonable,
proportionate and transparent; and
*  affordable (where contributions are required).
1.58 Under article 2(1) of ICESCR, Australia has certain obligations in relation to
the right to social security. These include:
*  the immediate obligation to satisfy certain minimum aspects of the right;
*  the obligation not to unjustifiably take any backwards steps that might affect
the right;
*  the obligation to ensure the right is made available in a non-discriminatory
way; and
* the obligation to take reasonable measures within its available resources to
progressively secure broader enjoyment of the right.
1.59 Specific situations which are recognised as engaging a person's right to social
security, include health care and sickness; old age; unemployment and workplace
injury; family and child support; paid maternity leave; and disability support.
Right to an adequate standard of living
1.60 The right to an adequate standard is guaranteed by article 11(1) of the
ICESCR, and requires States parties to take steps to ensure the availability, adequacy
and accessibility of food, clothing, water and housing for all people in Australia.
1.61 The obligations of article 2(1) of the ICESCR also apply in relation to the right
to an adequate standard of living, as described above in relation to the right to social
Deferral of proposed increase in compulsory superannuation contribution
1.62 Schedule 6 of the bill defers by ten years the proposed gradual increase in
the compulsory employer superannuation contribution to 12 per cent.
1.63 The statement of compatibility concludes that Schedule 6 does not engage
any human rights, noting that the deferral of the proposed increase in the
compulsory superannuation contribution:
…does not affect an individual's eligibility for the social security safety net
of the Age Pension (funded from Government revenue), which continues
to be a fundamental part of Australia‘s retirement income system to
ensure people unable to support themselves can have an adequate
standard of living.
1.64 However, in the committee's view, the provision of superannuation engages
both the right to an adequate standard of living and the right to social security.
1.65 Accordingly, the previously legislated increase in the compulsory
superannuation contribution may be viewed as a measure to promote both of these
rights. The deferral of the introduction of that measure may therefore be viewed as a
limitation on those rights.
1.66 The committee's usual expectation where a limitation on a right is proposed
is that the statement of compatibility provide an assessment of whether the
limitation is reasonable, necessary, and proportionate to achieving a legitimate
objective. The committee notes that to demonstrate that a limitation is permissible,
legislation proponents must provide reasoned and evidence-based explanations of
why the measures are necessary in pursuit of a legitimate objective…..
Repeal of low-income superannuation contribution
1.68 Schedule 7 of the bill proposes to repeal the low-income superannuation
contribution (LISC) for contributions made for financial years starting on or after
1 July 2017. The statement of compatibility concludes that Schedule 7 does not
engage any human rights, noting that the LISC:
…was funded with the expected revenue from the MRRT, which is being
repealed. In order to ensure that the concessions in the superannuation
system are sustainable for present and future generations, the LISC is also
being repealed.8
1.69 As discussed above, the committee considers that the provision of
superannuation engages both the right to an adequate standard of living,9
and the
right to social security.10
1.70 The proposed reduction of the amount paid to low-income earners to
compensate them for the tax paid on their superannuation contributions therefore
may be viewed as a limitation on these rights.
1.71 The committee's usual expectation where a limitation on a right is proposed
is that the statement of compatibility provide an assessment of whether the
limitation is reasonable, necessary, and proportionate to achieving a legitimate

Read the full report here.

Wednesday, 1 October 2014

Wither to for the Clarence Valley now that it is politically friendless?

Coal seam and tight gas exploration and wannabee production company Metgasco Limited is facing the loss of two out of three of its Northern Rivers tenements, if Labor wins government in the March 2015 state election in New South Wales and implements its permanent total ban on CSG/unconditional gas exploration and mining in Tweed, Richmond Valley, Ballina, Byron, Kyogle and Lismore City local government areas.

Unfortunately this leaves the company with a single tenement covering much of the Clarence Valley, once any future state Labor Government finished “exploring” water catchment issues and lifted the proposed temporary state-wide prohibition on coal seam gas mining.

Why is the Clarence Valley in this situation? 

Possibly in part it is because Opposition Leader John Robertson and Sussex Street sees the Clarence electorate a safe Nationals seat and they have given up on valley communities before the election campaign even starts.

It is also possible that because Metgasco considered PEL 426 to have the highest potential for productive gas strata, NSW Labor may done a backroom deal with Metgasco’s board in order for the company to have one remaining marketable reserve/asset left to either sell-off or develop.

Unfortunately for the Clarence Valley, having the current NSW Baird Coalition government retain government or Nationals MP for Clarence Chris Gulaptis retain his seat is not going to secure a gasfields free future for our communities either.

Metgasco’s PEL 426 tenement is exempt from the NSW Government freeze on new exploration licences and it can apply for a Petroleum Assessment Lease (PAL) to develop wells within the Clarence Valley.

I note that the 2013 test well at Glenugie confirmed a thickening of the Walloon Coal Measure towards the axis of the Grafton Trough with 11m of coal and carbonaceous shale intersected over the interval 495 to 700m and, PEL 426 is listed as potentially containing both coal seam and allegedly 'conventional' gas by the company.

As for the NSW Greens – they are ignoring the plight of the Clarence Valley (which is situated in the southern-most section of the Northern Rivers) and are instead calling for just Coffs Harbour local government area to be additionally included in the proposed Northern Rivers permanent total ban area.

The Yuraygir Coast and Range Alliance has called at meeting of concerned Clarence Valley residents on Thursday 2nd October for 5.30-7.30pm at Gurehlgam, 18 Victoria St, Grafton.

Hopefully this won't be the last meeting of its kind and concerned Clarence Valley residents will continue to voice their opposition to the establishment of local gasfields.

Here are the top 20 shareholders out of the 6,331 Metgasco Limited shareholders trying to bully the NSW Government and Northern Rivers communities into accepting their planned commercial coal seam gas fields

Coal seam & tight gas exploration company Metgasco Limited’s Annual Financial Report for year ending 30 June 2014:

The shareholder information set out below was applicable as at 17 September 2014.
The Issued Capital consisted of 448,702,530 fully paid ordinary shares.
There were 4,759 holders of these ordinary shares.
There were 1,572 holders of less than a marketable parcel of 8,065 ordinary shares.
The distribution of holders was:
Number of Fully Paid Ordinary Shares Held Shareholders %
1 – 1000 437 0.04
1,001 – 5,000 844 0.58
5,001 – 10,000 677 1.26
10,001 – 100,000 2,100 18.28
100,001 and above 701 79.84
Total 4.759 100.00