Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce was talking tough over ‘stopping’ the Shenhua coal mine project, at exactly the same time as his Federal Environment Minister Greg Hunt was ruling out revoking the mine’s licence to operate, according to the Lock the Gate Alliance (LTG).
Minister Joyce told 2GB radio on 31st March that in terms of the Shenhua Watermark mine ‘My best path is to make sure this mine doesn’t go ahead’ - unfortunately the following day, despite having a clear trigger on biodiversity grounds, Minister Hunt replied to LTG refusing to revoke the licence for the mine.
“The truth is there seems to be no political will at the Coalition cabinet table to deny powerful interest groups such as mining” said Lock the Gate spokeswoman Carmel Flint.
“The Nationals have the balance of power in this government but are unable or unwilling to exercise that power to stop a damaging coal mine, fair and square in the middle of some of Australia’s best farmland.
“This failure isn’t lost on local people - given the recent political decision to turn down the sale of the Kidman pastoral stations to Chinese interests - who are now asking why mining is untouchable.
“Barnaby had the opportunity to show his constituents he can wield the Nationals power by convincing Greg Hunt to use the laws he’s got to stop Shenhua’s mine.
“Under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act, Minister Hunt has the power to revoke an approval if he believes ‘the impacts that the action has had, will have or is likely to have were not accurately identified in information available to the minister when the approval was given’.
“This is clearly the case with the Shenhua project. The cumulative impacts of clearing on the critically endangered Box-Gum Grassy Woodland is not yet quantified or considered and hence the cumulative impacts of the proposal had not been accurately identified.
“The Kidman decision proves that the Nationals can act in the national interest and it’s time to do so for the Liverpool Plains. The Federal Government has the power to stop this mine, and if Mr Joyce values his standing in the New England electorate, he should ensure those powers are used immediately.
“The time for buck-passing needs to end. The Liverpool Plains need to be protected for food security, and the Shenhua and Caroona coal mines need to be taken off the table permanently,” Ms Flint said.
Lock the Gate’s original Letter to Minister Hunt and his letter in response - here.
Recent comment from Deputy Prime Minister regarding Shenhua coal mine
Barnaby Joyce ABC Radio, 30th March 2016
"I will use any ally I can to bring about the outcome I have been fighting for, which is based on the principle that we shouldn't have mines on prime agricultural land. If, in this instance, economics is the ally, then we will use economics as the point that I've been bringing forward a number of times already, saying that with the price of coal at its current level, it's impossible to make these things stack up."
Barnaby Joyce 2GB, Thursday 31st March
"It's very important for your listeners to understand the vast majority of the approval processes for this happens at the state, I think it's 16 of the 17 steps. They own the resource, they own the coal, they own the approval process'....'My best path is to make sure this mine doesn't go ahead, and to use whatever best mechanisms are at my disposal."