Comments made by new Resources Minister Madeleine King concerning Santos’ destructive Pilliga gasfield are appalling and show she has little respect for the ongoing Native Title Tribunal process, say Gomeroi Traditional Owners, local farmers, and their supporters.
Earlier this year, Gomeroi Traditional Owners voted 162 to 2 to oppose the gasfield, which would involve the drilling of 850 coal seam gas wells in and around the Pilliga Forest, which is considered sacred by Gomeroi people.
The legal decision is yet to be handed down, and Karra Kinchela, a Gomeroi Traditional Owner from Narrabri, said Ms King’s comments in the media in support of the project were disrespectful.
“We are respecting the tribunal process, we’re waiting patiently, there hasn’t been an outcome yet and Madeleine King should likewise be respectful,” she said.
“What gets me the most is that if we had started the transition to renewable energy ten years ago, the Pilliga wouldn’t be at risk now. The government wouldn’t be putting our Pilliga, our climate, and our water at risk.
“There has been resistance to Santos’ project for more than a decade, and that’s not going to change just because Ms King wants it to. She’s underestimating the determination of groups who are opposed to the gasfield if she thinks we’re just going to let Santos bulldoze the Pilliga.”
Liverpool Plains farmer Scott McCalman, whose property is covered by a recently renewed, Santos-owned coal seam gas exploration licence, said Ms King’s comments were disappointing given the new Albanese Government had been voted in with a mandate to boost renewable energy.
“The government was voted in because people want change, they want commitment to address climate change and they want our energy network to facilitate that change, and not be reliant on coal seam gas. Drilling for gas and supporting Santos’ project at Narrabri is extremely short-sighted,” he said.
“The Santos gasfield would be a costly, and environmentally damaging exercise and being years off production, it can’t play any role in the current energy crisis. Madeleine King only needs to look to Queensland where the land is slumping, there’s groundwater drawdown, and a massive, unresolved problem with salt waste, all thanks to coal seam gas.
“Santos’ gasfield will do nothing to address the energy crisis. We’ve got a renewable energy transition happening and we need the Federal Government to stick to it. They can come up with smarter ways to address short term issues that don’t involve sacrificing our best farming country to companies like Santos.
“Our food security is crucial. Madeleine King’s support of the Santos project threatens that.”
Lock the Gate Alliance National Coordinator Georgina Woods said Santos and other gas companies had been exploiting the high gas prices and tight market they engineered to exert political pressure for more damaging gasfields for years.
“Santos is the architect of the gas supply crisis we now face," she said.
"It’s embarrassing for the new Labor government to have a Minister duped by the gas industry’s self-serving campaign. Sacrificing the beautiful Pilliga to hundreds of gaswells will do nothing to reduce the high price of gas. What our country needs is a pathway to zero emissions and a government that puts people and the environment first.
“The last thing a new Federal Government should be doing is locking Australians into a future reliant on high gas prices. The renewable energy revolution is well and truly underway. That’s where Madeleine King should be focusing her energy.”