Opinion 22.3.2013 – Exposed, plot to save the Leard Forest

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I read with alarm last week in letters to a range of newspapers across NSW about a plot from “hardline climate change activists” to save the Leard Forest from coal mining.

The correspondent, the outgoing CEO of Whitehaven Coal Tony Haggarty (“Protest busload doesn’t speak for locals” AFR 13.3.2013) expressed support for Freedom of Speech but apparently not if you disagreed with Whitehaven’s right to profit from our public assets and were prepared to do something about it.

The proven formula of character assassination followed up by the promise of jobs, the threat of reds under the beds and the need to ensure coal miners safety has worked well for the coal barons both here and in the US.

But is any of it true?

The promise of jobs is clouded by the expansion of mining camps in Narrabri, Werris Creek and  Boggabri with the inquiry into Fly in/Fly out “The Cancer of the Bush” saying that the benefits of the resources industry could pass by inland communities and that there may be a hollowing out of regional Australia.

Over the last three years support for the Leard Forest has come from all quarters, including scientists, farmers, politicians, National party members and environmentalists. Broadcaster Allan Jones, has spoken eloquently about the Leard Forest and the privatization of the economic benefits to large multi-nationals and the socialization of its environmental costs.

The real threat to our safety is not from tree sitting environmentalists but to local communities who live in the fallout zone, for those who will suffer from global warming and for the loss of our planets biodiversity.

The unfortunate reality is that the Leard is the thin edge of the wedge as other dominos that include more public forests and productive agricultural lands in NSW are set to fall.

As individuals we must take a stand to protect our environment and the right to free speech where ever it occurs. This stand can take many forms including the running of a street stall or the writing of letters and submissions. It also includes the right to peaceful protest.

For those involved in the Leard Forest campaign be encouraged. Incredible as it may seem this attack is a necessary step along the road for all social and environmental campaigns and signals the next stage in the battle. As Mahatma Gandhi said “First they ignore you, then they ridicule you, then they fight you, then you win”.

Two weeks ago the Lock the Gate Alliance made a passionate plea to all Australians, a Call to Country to protect our communities, environment and future. We owe it to our children and grand children to stand resolute against these threats and to say “No more”.