David and Goliath?

Click on image to see video of the unfurling of this giant banner.

Most of us protesters were across the road from the Sofitel Wentworth luxury hotel in the heart of Sydney’s business district where the $900/head NSW Mineral Exploration & Investment Conference. But a handful of protesters got into the conference hall and were able to hold up signs protesting coal seam gas mining and two plucky young people abseiled down the front of the hotel and, to a roaring cheer from the demonstrators, unfurled a giant banner which read “Enough Is Enough/Stop Coal & Gas Expansion”.

This small but spectacular protest was just one expression of a powerful people’s movement that is uniting rural and urban communities around Australia against the mining companies determined to make as much profit for as long as possible from coal, gas and other fossil fuels regardless of the cost to our communities and the environment.

Earlier this year, the Illawarra community mobilised to create a 3,000-strong “Stop Coal Seam Gas!” human sign on a local beach. There have also been blockades in rural communities in Queensland and NSW and angry town hall meetings in Sydney suburbs, where governments have given out licenses to explore for coal seam gas deposits.

This gathering movement has got mining companies and corporate-profits-first  politicians worried. This was evident from two speeches at the NSW Mineral Exploration & Investment Conference.

NSW Minister for Resources and Energy Christopher Hartcher told the protest-shaken delegates:

“I acknowledge – and the O’Farrell Government acknowledges – that there are many legitimate concerns held in the community, by responsible sections of the community, about the future of mineral exploration and development in NSW. Those concerns are about our water, those concerns are about our environment and those concerns are about our farmland. But we need to address them and we need to work them through. We need to work them through accepting a fundamental premise that mining is at the very heart of the economy of this State…”

The same defensiveness was evident in the speech of the Deputy CEO of the NSW Mining Council Sue-Ern Tan who complained that the mining industry “has never before faced such a barrage of opposition”.

“Across NSW, community groups are criticising our environmental impacts, farmers are calling for moratoriums and mining exclusion zones, other industries are worried about the high dollar and the loss of their workers to the mines.

“These concerns are fodder for the political activists and anti-mining campaigners, who have a track record of playing on these fears, with little regard for the facts, demanding an even tougher response from the Government in a perceived ‘David and Goliath’ battle which has become the stuff of legend.”

But then Tan went on to prove just why this is widely “perceived” as a ‘David and Goliath’ battle by boasting about the billlons of dollars that could be invested in mining in the state, if only the government ignored the pesky protesting communities!

The mining industry in NSW was worth $17 billion in 2009-10, she said, and there was another $14 billion in future investment if the mining companies plans were given the go ahead. This, she added, could give the state government $6.8 billion in royalties over the next few years, oblivious to how much she sounded like another bible story: that of the devil tempting Jesus!

The mining companies made a whopping $255 billion in pre-tax profits made by the mining companies in Australia since 2004-5. They threaten, and arguably have destroyed elected governments and have massive resources to throw against the communities that are organising to defend their livelihoods, health and environment against the coal seam gas.

The NSW Mining Council deputy CEO spoke of mining companies “earning a social licence” but blithely betrayed that she had absolutely no idea about how to do this by boasting that 80% of the state’s mining depended on coal, a fossil fuel that under any rational and responsible perspective needs to be completely phased out as fast as possible because of the climate change emergency.

To fight the billionaire corporate Goliaths we need to build the institutions that fight uncompromisingly for a people and environment-first future. Green Left Weekly is one of those precious institutions. So far ths year we have raised only 47% of our $250,000 Fighting Fund and we urgently need your help to raise the rest.

Please make a contribution this week to the Green Left Fighting Fund. Donate online today. Or direct deposits can be made to Greenleft, Commonwealth Bank, BSB 062-006, Account No. 00901992. Otherwise, you can send a cheque or money order to PO Box 515, Broadway NSW 2007 or phone in a donation through on the toll-free line at 1800 634 206 (within Australia).

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