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Saturday, July 11, 2015

Barnaby Joyce and the Chinese coalmine

Barnaby Joyce

Agriculture Minister Barnaby Joyce has had a very bad week.  He appears to be a useless and impotent representative of Australian agriculture because he has failed in his bid to stop Tony Abbott's decision to turn prime farmland on Liverpool Plains near Gunnedah in northern NSW, into an open cut coalmine, bigger than Sydney.

But there are two sides to this story.

Once the Shenhua Watermark coalmine is up and running, it will operate 24/7 and extract 10 million tonnes of coal every year for 30 years and create 300 jobs, probably filled by Chinese working for a lower hourly rate.

Yes, it's it's an attractive proposition, Australia has masses of coal and an opportunity to sell it to China is to our advantage but the question is, do we have other farmland as good as this to grow food for our own people?  Liverpool Downs is often referred to as 'the food bowl of Australia.'

But yesterday, Tony Abbott said the mine won't be anywhere near the fertile black soil.  "It's a mine in the hill country, it's not on prime agricultural land" he said.

But there is still a major concern about water needed for agriculture.

To his credit, Barnaby said "the world has gone mad" after Environment Minister Greg Hunt gave the project conditional approval.

Mr Hunt said the federal approval is "subject to 18 of the strictest conditions in Australian history." The project has also been subjected to four expert reviews and two reviews by the Independent Expert Scientific Committee.

"There will be no impact on the availability of water for agriculture" Mr Hunt said.

But yesterday Barnaby disagreed and said he was suspicious of scientific advice that found no proof the mine would destroy the nearby water table.

If nearby aquifers were destroyed, he said, he didn't know of a process in the whole world that could fix the damage. 

The aquifers are a vital source of underground water for farmers in the area.  Because there was no proof the aquifers would be destroyed, the government had no reason to stop the mine, and if it did, it could be challenged in court.

So Barnaby is copping heaps and former local MP Tony Windsor is so disgusted with him, he's threatened to come out of retirement and stand in his seat at the next election.

Barnaby has one last hope.  He's written to NSW Premier Mike Baird pleading with him to block the mining licence but I'm guessing it will have zero chance of success.