Image: Coal seam gas wellhead.
The issue of mineral and petroleum extraction has been causing a great deal of angst within the farming community of late. Most of this is based on the situation whereby; once explorers obtain rights to operate over an area; farmers lose their rights to decide who has access to their properties. This is merely the latest issue in a long stream of losses of property rights by the rural sector.
Two months ago, Tony Abbott seemed to demonstrate an understanding of the basic issue with his statement on Allan Jones program on 2GB, “If you don't want something to happen on your land, you ought to have a right to say no.” He went on to add, “People are entitled to be concerned about any situation where miners are coming on to land against the wishes of landholders.” This sparked outrage among CSG stakeholders:
The comments in August sparked outrage from industry and the states, with the Queensland government accusing him of seeking to turn the clock back on 100 years of mining tenure.Now, Tony has had a rethink, which appears to be based on the ‘what’s yours is the property of the state’ principle. Ditching the concept of private property rights, he has now grasped the collectivist logic of the ALP and Greens, that boosting the coffers of the state is way too important to allow a mob of yobbos out in flyover country have a say in what happens on their patch of land:
The federal government accused Mr. Abbott at the time of planning to take a wrecking ball to the mining sector and placing billions of dollars of investment at risk.
The Opposition Leader today said farmers deserved a fairer deal when it came to coal seam gas extraction, but the investment it produced could be too good to pass up. “Now my position is if there is the possibility of picking up billions of dollars we'd be silly not to take it,” Mr. Abbott said.Allowing farmers the right to say no to these developments will not stop the CSG industry or any other. What such a measure would do is to create better outcomes for farmers. Exploration companies would be obliged to negotiate with them on a level playing field where they do not have the overriding right to enter whether or not the property owner agrees.
“Now an adult government does not lock the gate so to speak (to investment). “What an adult government does is try to find out exactly what all the facts are and manages things in ways that secure tomorrow.”
He said managing the gas industry was a question of balance and following scientific advice.
This would result in a better relationship between sides, a greater degree of cooperation, and the probability of a more profitable deal for those who choose to allow gas production to coexist with their own activities. Large swathes of rural Australia could reap the rewards of a valuable additional industry in their midst if farmers were allowed to negotiate better deals.
Abbott should drop his condescending attitude of being the only adult in the room. The issue is not as he would have it, merely "a question of balance and following scientific advice," unless he intends to ride roughshod over the individual rights of Australians in order to rob them blind in favour of revenues to support whatever grandiose plans he has to replace those of Gillard and Brown.