Tuesday, 21 October 2014

Metgasco Limited v Minister for Resources and Energy: Managing Director gives evidence

Metgasco Managing Director Peter Henderson gave evidence in Metgasco Limited v Minister for Resources and Energy (Case # 201400165970) before the NSW Supreme Court on 20 October 2014.

ABC News reported on the same day:

Managing Director Peter Henderson told the Supreme Court drilling at the Rosella well was not in order to find coal seam gas but rather "conventional" gas.
But he agreed there was community concern the extraction could involve fracking.
Mr Henderson could not recall police at one stage telling him there may have been more than 2,000 protesters at the Rosella site.
He said Metgasco had been in the Northern Rivers area for about a decade and had previously drilled 50 wells there.
When questioned about community opposition to another well in the area, the Kingfisher Well, he said: "I can't remember any newspaper or public discussion."


On 14 May 2014 the Office of Coal Seam Gas OCSG put a hold on Metgasco's approval to drill an exploration well at Bentley, near Casino in the Northern Rivers, on the basis that the company was not in compliance with its community consultation obligations under Petroleum Exploration Licence 16 (PEL 16).

Excerpt from Council acts on CSG tip off in the Northern Rivers Echo, 10 November 2011:

Lismore City Council has withdrawn support for seismic testing by Metgasco on Council-owned land in the Rock Valley area after discovering staff had approved an application without the councillors' knowledge.
On September 1 a Council staffer sent a letter to Metgasco approving the testing, but it wasn't until after Tuesday night's Council meeting that councillors became aware of the approval.
Having learnt of an application by Metgasco, Mayor Jenny Dowell moved an 'urgency motion' during the meeting that all requests for CSG and mineral testing or exploration on Council owned or administered land be brought before the Council for consideration. However it wasn't until after the motion had been passed and the meeting concluded that Mayor Dowell became aware that approval had already been granted following a discussion with Rock Valley resident Wanda Halden, who had been liaising with Council staff. Mayor Dowell took swift action and by Wednesday lunchtime Metgasco had been advised that Council's permission had been rescinded….

Greens fear rash of CSG wells, ABC Regional News, 13 December 2011:

The Greens fear that 500 or more coal seam gas (CSG) wells are planned for the New South Wales north coast.
Mining spokesman Jeremy Buckingham says Metgasco has reluctantly revealed its future plans for the region during hearings of the NSW Parliamentary Inquiry into Coal Seam Gas.
Mr Buckingham says such developments will ruin the north coast's environment.
"We believe that if they are to go ahead with their plans for the power station and also a pipeline up the Lyons Way that they would need somewhere between 500 and 1,500 [wells]," he said.
"But the scale of the industry is beginning to emerge and the question is now where do Metgasco plan to put these 500 wells?"
Meanwhile, Metgaco says it has never tried to deceive the public about its fracking operations on the north coast.
Kyogle's Group Against Gas says the company used fracking in the Kingfisher well a year ago.
Metgasco's managing director, Peter Henderson, says that information was made public and he thinks claims that the company tried to hide the fact are unfair.
"No I don't think it's fair. We try to be open and transparent," he said.
"I'd have to say though in a climate like this where there's a lot of misinformation going about and a lot of accusations that are simply uninformed, we probably do need to be careful about the words we use simply to make sure that people respond to the right information.
"But we do our best to be open and transparent. There are no secrets."

Excerpt from Metgasco says it needs 1000 wells, ABC North Coast NSW, 28 May 2012:

Metgasco says it will need about 1000 wells operating in the Casino area to make its economic forecasts come true.

Excerpt from Being fair to all is tough editorial in The Daily Examiner, 9 January 2013, page 10:

A quick glance at our web stats shows more than 300 stories on the CSG issue over the past year.

Excerpts from Metgasco chief issues statement on Kingfisher incident* in The Northern Star, 3 October updated 4 October 2013:

* NIMBIN Environment Centre has accused coal seam gas company Metgasco of initially understating the seriousness of a dangerous incident at its Kingfisher well in July.
And Environment Centre secretary Alan Roberts has said the degraded state of pipes shot from the well, which is on the outskirts of Casino, in the incident meant it was likely toxins associated with coal seam gas drilling had migrated into the water table.
The incident has been the subject of an investigation by the NSW Government's Mine Safety Investigation Unit, as reported last week by The Northern Star, which found some workers at the site "were put at serious risk of harm from falling pipes".
No-one was injured in the incident but it caused "significant" equipment damage, the government report says.
However, in a statement released by the Nimbin Environment Centre, Mr Roberts says Metgasco downplayed the incident.
* METGASCO has rejected claims it understated the seriousness of the incident at its Kingfisher well in July and that toxins were able to pass into groundwater. The company has said it plans to release a statement tomorrow responding to the claims by the Nimbin Environment Centre…..
* METGASCO chief executive and managing director Peter Henderson has issued the following statement regarding the dangerous incident at the Kingfisher well, on the outskirts of Casino, in July….

* Fifteen online reader comments were listed below this article.

Excerpt from The Battle of Bentley* in the Northern Rivers Echo, 7 January 2014:

Metgasco has announced it will be targeting tight gas in upcoming drilling activities.

The company states that the Rosella exploration well at Bentley is targeting tight gas in the Gatton Sandstone formation and looking to the "confirm tight gas potential in the broader exploration area".

 * A tight gas reservoir is one that cannot be produced at economic flow rates or recover economic volumes of gas unless the well is stimulated by a large hydraulic fracture treatment and/or produced using horizontal wellbores.[Oil & Gas Journal, digital magazine]

Excerpt from Protesters resume waiting game as Metgasco drilling on hold in The Northern Star, 2 April 2014:

But Metgasco CEO Peter Henderson refuted claims Monday morning's 2000-strong turnout had derailed the company's plans, saying activities were "influenced by weather and availability of the drilling rig, neither of which we control".

Excerpts from Up to their necks in it, farmers lead coal seam gas protests by example in The Sydney Morning Herald, 12 April 2014:

* Near Lismore late last month, about 2000 people gathered on a rural property to prevent mining company Metgasco from starting exploratory gas drilling in the area….
* Metgasco chief executive Peter Henderson claims opposition to gas mining is driven by a core group of "professional protesters".
"They're the people who tend to be the mainstays, quite often the troublemakers ... they are basically anarchists," he said. "When the television cameras come they tend to get to the back and they push a local farmer to the front."
But Environmental Defenders Office principal solicitor Sue Higginson said local opposition to mining projects, including from farmers, was genuine.
"We are seeing 75-year-old blokes standing locked on to machinery for nine hours after getting up at 3am to make a difference, to try to be heard by a system they believe is not listening," she said.

Excerpts from Police should have stepped in at Bentley sooner: Metgasco* in The Northern Star, 14 August 2014:

* POLICE should have intervened at Bentley before the situation escalated to a crisis point where 800 officers were needed, Metgasco CEO Peter Henderson said.
Mr Henderson was commenting on government documents released last week describing the unprecedented tactics used by activists and the "high to extreme" risk to the public and police of any confrontation.
In hindsight, he said the best time for police to act was when protesters had first established a presence outside the proposed drilling site in January….
* The company had asked police to "go in early" and arrest protesters breaking the law, given Metgasco's past experience at previous blockades at Doubtful Creek and Glenugie…

* Seventeen online reader comments under this article

NIKON-WALKLEY COMMUNITY/REGIONAL PRIZE 2014 - Winner is photographer Adam Hourigan from The Daily Examiner, Clarence Valley

Adam Hourigan, The Daily Examiner, “Images from The Daily Examiner”
Eric Lyons and the iconic caravan on the Yamba Rd at Palmers Island 

Adam Hourigan shows strong skills and creativity in a body of work that is both emotive and well-executed. From horse racing at the Clarence River Jockey Club to a lucky escape on the Pacific Highway and a 60th wedding anniversary snuggle in the cinema, Adam’s portfolio shows his commitment to providing a small regional newspaper with exceptional imagery.
Judges for the 2014 Nikon-Walkley Awards for Excellence in Photojournalism were: Stuart Hannagan, Jon Reid, Renee Nowytarger, David Dare Parker and Jack Picone.

"I hope you are not going to say I am a sexist misogynist" - Australian Finance Minister Mathias Cormann

The problem that the Labor Party has today is that Bill Shorten is an economic girlie man. [Australian Finance Minister Senator Mathias Cormann, Sky News Agenda, 18 October 2014]

On 18 October 2014 another Liberal Party politician was caught dragging his knuckles along the ground, when Finance Minister Mathias Cormann called Opposition Leader Bill Shorten an economic girlie man.

He obviously wasn't expecting the reaction to this comment and sought to douse the flames in a somewhat unusual manner:

The Belgian-born MP argued that “girlie man’’ was a gender free zone. “I am not talking about girls. I am talking about economic girlie men,’’ he said.
“I don’t think there’s anything gender specific here. Not girls, girlies, it’s very different. I hope you are not going to say I am a sexist misogynist.’’
[Mathias Cormann, Herald Sun, 18 October 2014]

Mathias Cormann's hope he would not seen as a sexist misogynist was short-lived.

As women reacted negatively to his initial insult and subsequent 'excuse', Cormann decided to try another tack the next day:

"It is not in any way intended as a reflection on girls, it is entirely intended as a reflection on Bill Shorten".

“Girlie” according to my Australian dictionary is a colloquial term for girl (a female child or young female) and, when this word is combined with “man”  the user is implying that a man is acting like the stereotypical weak young girl - a characterization which seems to uniquely inhabit the minds of chauvinistic individuals.

Even lexicographers don't support Cormann's assertion that the term is not linked negatively to the female gender:

girlie man. noun. A male who is wimpy or soft; a male who likes to participate in activities or events thought to be mainly feminine: That girly man loves chick flicks. [The Dictionary of American Slang, Fourth Edition by Barbara Ann Kipfer, PhD. and Robert L. Chapman, Ph.D.]

In the aftermath of his bizarre and unsuccessful attempts to characterize the derogatory term “girlie man” as having nothing to do with a sexist view of females, perhaps he would rather be seen as an ignorant excuse for a member of parliament instead.

* Photograph found at Google Images

Monday, 20 October 2014

Transparent Local Government: Ballina Shire Council regularly does what Clarence Valley Council will not do

This is an excerpt from Ballina Shire Council's Ordinary Monthly Meeting agenda paper for 24 April 2014:
Note that the information is provided in open council so that it is available to the public, including local residents and ratepayers.

Ballina Shire Council appears to have been providing legal matters updates in open council since at least 2012 with no ill effect.

This is an excerpt from Clarence Valley Council's Corporate, Governance & Works Committee business paper for 14 October 2014:

Item 14.107/14 had a confidential report attached for councillors eyes only. 

From a question* asked at this committee meeting it was obvious that two legal matters** had either been vaguely outlined in the confidential report or omitted entirely. 

It seems that elected councillors are almost as deeply in the dark as local residents and ratepayers.

The difference in approach between Ballina Shire and Clarence Valley councils is striking.

* Clarence Valley Council audio live streams its ordinary monthly and committee meetings.
** Both legal matter cited in the question involved Clarence Valley Council being taken to court by the applicants.

Welcome to the Institute of Public Affairs universe

In the modern Australia, where poverty is increasingly defined as the lack of a plasma television in an otherwise opulent home….
[Institute of Public Affairs, October 2014 occasional paper, Things are getting better all the time: A snapshot of Australian living standards in the long run]

This self-described think tank created in 1943, the Institute of Public Affairs (IPA), has been keenly supported by Prime Minister Tony Abbott and other right-wing politicians for many years.

Perhaps its rather strange understanding of comparative poverty in Australia, explains the Abbott Government’s 2014-15 Federal Budget and its punitive moves against the poor.

The real face of poverty in this country is not the absence of a plasma television, it looks like this:

According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics data:

In 2011-12 there were 272,400 Australian households with incomes below $300 per week. These households contained over one million people;

There were 105,237 people who were classified as being homeless on census night in 2011(up from 89,728 in 2006);

The number of homeless people in improvised dwellings, tents or sleeping out on census night  was 6,813; and

In 2011 60% of homeless people were aged under 35 years, and 22% of the increase in homelessness was in the 25 to 34 years age group (up 22% to 19,311 homeless people in 2011).

In 2012 the Australian Council of Social Service (ACOSS) revealed 2.2 million Australians were living below the poverty line.

Nearly 2 million people rely on some form of food aid each year and approximately half of them are children.

The underemployment rate in Australian in 2013 was 7.5 per cent.

Even with factors that affect labour force outcomes being the same, Aboriginal and Torres Strait islander people are still twice as likely as non-Indigenous people to be unemployed.

Australia's seasonally adjusted unemployment rate was 6.1 per cent in September 2014.

Since January 2003 unemployment benefits have been below the Henderson Poverty Line, with a single adult of working age falling $196.02 short according to The Australia Institute
Calculations by The Australia Institute based on Melbourne Institute of Applied Economic and Social Research, Poverty Lines: Australia (various issues), and Australian Government (2014) Guide to Social Security Law.
In 2013-2014 1 in 8 Australians couldn’t afford to pay their electricity bills.

The Echo Netdaily reported on 1 October 2014 that one in three elderly Australians are living in poverty, despite being among the most highly educated senior citizens in the world.

Sunday, 19 October 2014

Australia's intelligence agencies already fail to comply with safeguards in national security legislation. Why are they now being given more powers than ever before?

As the Abbott Government prepares to enact sweeping changes to Australia’s national security laws, with the co-operation of the Labor Opposition and only weak recommendations from the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security to amend the Counter-Terrorism Legislation Amendment (Foreign Fighters) Bill, it is worth remembering that this nation’s intelligence agencies already often fail to comply with safeguards built into existing legislation.

It is also worth noting that compliance oversight of these agencies does not involve inspecting all agency activities/warrants and relies heavily on voluntary self-reporting by these same agencies.

In 2013–14 we reviewed approximately half of the warrants obtained by ASIO. These inspections occur after the Attorney-General has authorised the warrant and usually after ASIO has completed the operation and reported back to the Attorney-General.

During 2013–14 our inspection program identified four errors in ASIO’s execution of warrant powers, each of which constituted a breach of either the ASIO Act or the TIA Act.

My office identified one breach under the ASIO Act relating to delay by ASIO in revoking a warrant. The ASIO Act requires ASIO to inform the minister ‘forthwith’ once the grounds on which the warrant was issued cease to exist. For the warrant in question there was a considerable delay in providing the relevant notification to the Attorney-General.

As noted in previous annual reports, I have a particular interest in ASIO’s use of B-Party warrants because of the potential for intrusive collection of material that is not relevant to security. In 2013–14 there was a modest increase in the use of such warrants following a decrease the previous year. This increase was due to a growth in the number of Australians involved in foreign conflicts. Most of these warrants are reviewed by my office. I am currently consulting with the Attorney-General’s Department about ASIO’s interpretation of the provisions in the TIA that restrict the availability of B-party warrant.

My office identified one instance when ASIO communicated information on Australian persons to a non-approved foreign authority responsible for issuing passports for that country. The case raised complex legal issues and at the end of the reporting period I had not formed a final view on whether approval from the Attorney-General was strictly legally required; however, my view is that at least as a matter of propriety and compliance with the intention of the restrictions the matter should have gone to the Attorney-General.

In one case I questioned whether the justification given for the internal security investigation was sufficient or reasonable, having regard to all of the circumstances. In particular I questioned whether it was appropriate for personal information about a member of the public to be passed to an ASIO officer who had expressed concerns that the individual might pose a risk to the officer’s own personal safety. I was advised at the time that all ASIO staff members could access some ASIO holdings to perform checks on individuals, including neighbours and social contacts that might relate to personal security or safety. I expressed concern that ASIO did not have formal processes in place to ensure that personal information in ASIO’s holdings about a member of the public could not be released to a staff member or accessed directly by the staff member. In my view, this is out of step with community expectations in respect of privacy.

In one instance ASIS had been aware that the person was Australian but this had not been well documented or communicated. This was a breach of the privacy rules. It was subsequently found that there was also a breach of the requirement that ASIS only communicate intelligence in accordance with government requirements and the requirement for ministerial authorisation before taking action to produce intelligence on an Australian person. There is further information on this case below….there had been unauthorised collection against the individual breaching the ISA’s requirement that ASIS ‘obtain ministerial authorisation before undertaking any activity to produce intelligence on an Australian person’ (s.8) after ASIS first became aware of the individual’s dual nationality in July 2012. ASIS investigated the case further. I received a copy of the final report from the Director-General in June 2014, which confirmed there had been a breach of both section 6(1)(b) and section 8 of the ISA, as well as a breach of the privacy rules.

ASIS reported two breaches because the privacy rules were not applied to reporting on a person known to be an Australian person. Inspections by my office identified an additional two breaches where the privacy rules had not been applied. ASIS subsequently amended all four reports and applied the privacy rules retrospectively.

The May 2014 inspection confirmed one breach of the ISA, where an ASIS officer who had not been approved for training in or the use of weapons discharged a firearm in a skills maintenance session in March 2014….. a further two breaches of the ISA relating to the unapproved use of weapons by ASIS officers during the reporting period: one at a skills maintenance session in September 2013 and one at a firing range in December 2013.

In January 2014, DSD separately provided to me their final report on a breach of the ISA which occurred during October 2013, where incomplete records had resulted in DSD conducting intelligence collection activity on a person known to be Australian. During the reporting period I continued to inspect cancellations of ministerial authorisations and non-renewal reports to the Minister for Defence under sections 10 and 10A of the ISA. In September 2013, as part of our regular inspection of DSD activities, I asked DSD to confirm that intelligence collection against several subjects had ceased (as had been advised by DSD to the Minister for Defence). DSD advised that collection against one subject had continued for several months beyond the expiry of the ministerial authorisation, in breach of the requirements specified in the ISA.

In two cases there were breaches of the privacy rules as the presumption of nationality was not applied reasonably by DSD. In both cases, intelligence collection activity occurred against Australian persons in circumstances where DSD already had information indicating that the individuals concerned were Australian persons, but in each case members of staff had failed to make appropriate inquiries of existing DSD records. In addition to these cases being breaches of the presumption rule in the privacy rules, the action taken to produce intelligence on an Australian person was inconsistent with the ministerial authorisation requirement in the ISA. During 2013–14, I assessed two instances where DSD communicated information about an Australian person not in accordance with the privacy rules. Both incidents resulted from a failure to follow established compliance processes.

During my 2013–14 inspection program, a breach of Section 133(1) of the AML/CTF Act was identified whereby ASIO communicated AUSTRAC information to a foreign intelligence agency without first receiving appropriate undertakings for the protection and use of the information.

Health Services Union NSW is experiencing interesting times

Snapshot from NSW Court Lists

The Age 14 October 2014:

Controversial unionist Kathy Jackson has sought a delay in a $1.4 million lawsuit brought against her for alleged widespread fraud and theft citing her serious mental health problems.
It emerged in the Federal Court that Ms Jackson has also recently lodged a WorkCover claim against the Health Services Union where she sprung to national prominence as a "whistleblower" exposing the crimes of former Labor president Michael Williamson.  She is now being pursued for alleged corruption.
Ms Jackson on Tuesday, through her lawyer, applied in the Federal Court to have the HSU's lawsuit against her adjourned until February due to her health problems as she was unable to provide instructions to her lawyer.
But the HSU's lawyer, Mark Irving, attacked the last minute application and flagged it would seek to cross-examine the doctor who provided the report on Ms Jackson to check its "veracity".
"Having a medical report in one's back pocket for the best part of a fortnight and dumping it upon us at the last moment ... this is a continuation of quite disgraceful behaviour. It is quite extraordinary and unacceptable behaviour," he said.
"Things get worse for people who are being sued for significant amounts of money - what the (medical) report does not proceed to say at any stage is that she is not capable of providing rational instructions."
Justice Richard Tracey again criticised Ms Jackson for not abiding by court orders in the case saying it was "inexcusable". "I am conscious of the many inexcusable failures to comply with the court's orders. It's a matter that I have taken very seriously," he said.
Justice Tracey signalled he was reluctant to give the HSU summary judgement in the case - which would involve Ms Jackson being required to pay the HSU about $700,000 - as it was an "extreme step". 
He gave Ms Jackson until early November to provide affidavits about her "capacity to give instructions". ….

Read the rest here.

Saturday, 18 October 2014

A message for Yamba's funky hair studio Paul

Although it's  been quite a while between drinks at the table of knowledge at the local watering hole a quorum of members was in attendance today and, boy-oh-boy, it was a not-to-be-missed occasion.

Just one item was raised in general business and, golly gee, it was white-hot.

Long-time Yamba resident Cliff, who's been in town since the year dot, told the gathering he and his missus were absolutely blown away when they heard a local hair dresser was seeking to employ a backpacker at a local cut n curl salon.

Cliff says he and his good wife have drawn a line in the sand and will not be frequenting the place that hosts Paul who placed the ad on Gumtree until things change drastically.

Footnote: Cliff's missus reckons anyone who uses "coastel" is dead-set suss.