July 18, 2015

An important promise kept

Last Monday lunchtime I went to Speakers' Corner near Parliament House in Brisbane to join a small gathering of people that included the Hon Peter Wellington. He was certainly in the right place, being the Speaker of the Queensland Parliament.

Mr Wellington expressed his support for the People's Common Rights and Provisions Bill 2014, which aims to restore democracy in a state whose last government momentarily forgot – let's give them the benefit of the doubt – that power resides in the people and is exercised by the people through their elected representatives, not by mining industry lobbyists through donations to those representatives.

We listened to the experience of Aileen Harrison, who bought her ideal retirement home in the eastern Darling Downs, little realising the impact New Hope's Acland mine, two kilometres away, would have on her family's health and happiness. When she finally concluded that life was 'unbearable', but couldn't sell the property, New Hope long resisted her request for an independent valuation. They finally agreed, but disputed the figure and refused to pay the going rate. In addition, some of Aileen's family had to sign a confidentiality agreement. She did not, and so we got to hear of her despair and disillusionment with a system that allowed New Hope to drill 24/7, light-out the night sky, immerse her world in orange dust; in other words, trample her dream.
Frank Ashman (above), like Aileen, is a member of Oakey Coal Action Alliance. He runs beef cattle on 270 hectares currently about eight kilometres from the mine. Frank is concerned, however, that if Acland Stage 3 goes ahead, it will impact on his bores and hence his cattle business.

With people like Aileen and Frank in mind, thousands of people signed a petition in support of the Queensland People's Bill*. One of several important aims of the Bill is to restore the rights of farmers, landowners and communities to object to inappropriate development threatening their livelihoods and good health. Peter Wellington accepted the petition from Aileen and promised to pass it on to the Clerk of the Parliament and Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk.
Aileen hands over the petition
I can imagine the joy of Aileen, Frank and hundreds of thousands of others on Thursday when Dr Anthony Lynham, Minister for State Development and for Natural Resources and Mines introduced the State Development and Public Works Organisation and Other Legislation Amendment Bill 2015, honouring the Palaszczuk government's election promise to restore objection rights removed at five minutes to midnight on a particularly dark night during the previous LNP government's administration. Labor was supported by the Katter Party and Independent (formerly Labor) Billy Gordon, and the Bill was passed the following day.
Frank and Aileen listen to the Speaker
Labor has been working away at this piece of legislation since they were elected at the end of January, and were keen to have it in place for the 'New Acland Coal Mine Stage 3 Project'. For many people it represents a key part of the de-Newmanisation of Queensland. It was a great end to the week, despite the cold.

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