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Law reform for gas an urgent priority for parliament's first week

The first order of business when the new parliament sits next week must be decisive action to protect the Northern Rivers from unconventional gas, says the Lock the Gate Alliance, following comments by Metgasco that they plan to return to drill at Bentley in the coming months.

On Friday, the Supreme Court quashed the Minister for Resources and Energy’s decision to suspend Metgasco’s unconventional gas licence following a breach of the company’s community consultation conditions. Following the court’s decision, Metgasco CEO Peter Henderson indicated the company may return to Bentley to being drilling within three months.

Bentley was the site of an unprecedented community blockade twelve months ago, when thousands of people prevented Metgasco accessing their drilling site.

Lock the Gate National Coordinator, Phil Laird said, “The State election was a referendum on coal seam gas in the Northern Rivers, and there is no mistaking the result. The people don’t want it, and in a democracy, that should count for something: if the law is not capable of protecting the public, then the law must be revised.

National Party Member for Clarence, Chris Gulaptis responded to the decision on Friday saying he hoped the Government would appeal the decision.

Mr Laird continued, “We welcome the member for Clarence’s strong words in reaction to this decision, and his stated intention to urge the Government to appeal. By working with other members of parliament that want a gasfield free Northern Rivers, the government could introduce new law next week that could give them the tools they need to cancel licences that are not in the public interest.

“A community should not be put in the position where it must blockade to protect democracy and the public interest. The Government and all parliamentarians need to cooperate to uphold the public interest in this and all cases where mining companies are acting against community wishes.

“A parliamentary inquiry across the political spectrum found that further coal seam gas should not be contemplated until the chief Scientist’s recommendations are fulfilled.

“If the Government doesn’t act, we call on the Australian Labor Party, Greens, Christian Democrats and Shooters and Fishers representatives in parliament to build on the consensus that was emerging prior to the State election and deliver protection for the Northern Rivers immediately, along with a process to begin broader, state wide mining reform.”

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