Origin Energy’s Board has been grilled today at their Annual General Meeting over the company’s treatment of landholders in Queensland, in the wake of the tragic death of cotton farmer George Bender last week.
Lock the Gate Alliance National Coordinator Phil Laird asked the Board whether the company would make a commitment to respect the rights of landholders to refuse access, and pull out of Hopeland on the Western Downs. George Bender had been threatened with court action by the company after refusing them access, and took his own life last week.
A vigil for Mr Bender was conducted at the front of the AGM and the company fielded several questions about its conduct and coal seam gas operations in southern Queensland.
In response to the questions, the company Chair Gordon Cairns offered Lock the Gate a meeting with a company representative and said Origin was proud of its record of interaction with farmers and had only ever gained access to people’s land with their consent.
Phil Laird said, “The law leaves farmers at the mercy of gas companies. It needs fixing, and we have an eight point plan to do that which we are seeking an urgent meeting with Premier Palaszczuk to discuss.
“Origin knows it can take farmers to court if they refuse access. It can ruin them financially and emotionally. They are wielding power and coercing people to accept access deals with the threat of court action. We want them to commit today that they will never do that again.
“We appreciate their offer of a meeting, and will be pressing the case for them to leave Hopeland in peace and commit to never again use threats of legal action to coerce people to accept CSG against their will. We hope that Premier Palaszczuk too, sees the need for an urgent meeting about this situation, out of respect for George Bender’s family and the community that are mourning him.”
Photos from the vigil for George Bender in Sydney this morning are available here: https://www.flickr.com/photos/treslola
More vigils are scheduled to take place around the country tomorrow, with details available here: www.lockthegate.org.au/never_again