Last week, Tony Abbott came out strongly against mining companies who come on privately owned farming land to mine for coal seam gas without permission of the owner. He had been talking to Sydney broadcaster and good friend Alan Jones, who brought the matter to the attention of the public. Somewhere along the line, a law was passed which gave the mining companies all the rights and the farmer virtually none.
So it seemed like a worthy policy and Tony decided to run with it but is wasn't a good idea - it was met with furious opposition from all sides. Realizing his mistake, he back-tracked by saying the mining industry was very important and should be "broadly supported" and rounded off the subject with "land use decisions were fundamentally a matter for the states."
Nationals Senator Barnaby Joyce said "The nation should be allowed to say no, when it destroys an aquifer, there should be an immediate no." He went on "If it's going to damage the aquifer, and if it's going to destroy the use of prime agricultural land, then that is something not only the landholder should have an interest in, but our nation should have an interest in."
But here's the bottom line - the farmers want more powers to negotiate a better deal with the miners. Senator Joyce said "What they are getting at the moment is less than 75 cents for every $1,000 that the coal seam gas company operates and I think that is representative of the complete inequity in the dealing negotiations going on at the moment."
So if the farmers were given a bigger slice of the action, I wonder if the problem would disappear.