Friday, February 11, 2011

drilling not thrilling the electorate!

grasswren country is drilling country! this beautiful hanging-valley on the ridgetop track is back in the hands of the mining industry

You know, I had always thought that the number one priority of any incumbent political party, whatever else they might tell you, was to get re-elected.

But when it comes to the South Australian branch of the Labor Party it would appear that 'it ain't necessarily so'!

The almost incomprehensible decision to allow Marathon Resources to return to active drilling in the Arkaroola Wilderness Sanctuary is a case in point; all they seem to have managed to achieve is to sink their already decidedly, um, whiffy public stock still further!

As local daily The Advertiser noted on Tuesday -

A poll on the AdelaideNow website [The Advertiser online] found more than 80 per cent of more than 2000 respondents opposed mining in the area, and comments published online were overwhelmingly negative.

This is hardly the first such reaction!

In response to overwhelming rejection of their Seeking a Balance 'mining access' plan (SaB) from scientists, geologists, tourism operators and the public alike - and particularly the devastating criticisms from the South Australian Museum ('we advise that this re-assessment of the Environmental Classes, “Seeking A Balance”, be rejected totally' - ouch!) - what do Rann and co. do?

Quietly bin the thing, fail to issue the promised formal response to submissions (perhaps because it could only devolve into some sort of formal acknowledgement of incompetence?) - and hand Marathon another exploration lease which allows them to return to drilling!

Let's get this straight; 80% + of responders thought SaB did not go far enough, by a long chalk, in affording Arkaroola and the northern Flinders Ranges the permanent protection it deserves. 'Seeking' was Unbalanced! Playing irritating spin games along the lines of 'oh, but the mining industry criticised it too' will not do - every time the issue arises the public reaction to the prospect of mining is overwhelmingly negative; the SaB submissions, letters to politicians and the Editor, online polling, talkback... they all produce the same results - huge majorities opposed, tiny minorities in favour.

creative interpretation - just say no!

Even the Liberal Party has come out formally opposing any mine, and has proposed legislation that seeks to ensure the Class A Environmental Zone provisions of the Planning Act - which, if read in English, make any proposal to establish a uranium mine an impossibility - cannot be spun, creatively-interpreted, or 'guidelined' out of existence.

But Labor is apparently bent on pursuing this policy of electoral suicide! So much for a 'new direction'; surely Jack Snelling, John Rau, and Jay Weatherill don't want a spell in opposition from early 2014 just so they can 'get the hang of it', or something?

question, questions

I'm not the only one wondering what is going on. Greens MLC Mark Parnell asked former Mineral Resources Minister Paul Holloway a series of questions in Parliament on Tuesday -

The Hon. M. PARNELL (15:09): I seek leave to make a brief explanation before asking the Hon. Paul Holloway, the former minister for mineral resource development, a question about the granting of a new exploration licence to Marathon Resources.

Leave granted.

The Hon. M. PARNELL: Yesterday, Marathon Resources confirmed that they had agreed to accept a new exploration licence over the spectacular and iconic Arkaroola Wilderness Sanctuary that was offered to them by the Rann government. The response from geologists, ecologists and the wider South Australian community has been predictable: it has been total condemnation.

Also at odds with previous practice, the Sprigg family, the owners of part of the sanctuary and custodians of the rest, were kept totally in the dark about the conditions of the new licence by the Department of Primary Industries. The Spriggs were devastated to discover that the company has been allowed back in to drill for the first time since 2007, which is a clear betrayal of the commitment made by acting minister Jack Snelling on 21 December last year that the licence would contain stricter conditions.

The significant weakening of the conditions that have severely restricted Marathon's operations over the last three years has surprised many. For example, this morning on ABC radio, Matthew Abraham said:

...this program understood from a very good source before Christmas that the Rann government was considering doing the absolute reverse and, that is, not extending the mining lease, the exploration lease and in fact was considering options including making it a national park and banning mining completely from there, so quarantining it...

we don't know what happened from then until now but it was quite good information, (if) I can put it that way. We do know though that Marathon Resources is very well connected, has former Labor senator, former party secretary Chris Schacht first as a lobbyist, now he is a director of Marathon Resources. You do wonder whether he and others got cracking in the interim because that did send a bit of a shiver through Marathon Resources...

My questions of the former minister are:

1.What happened between October and December of last year to change your mind about throwing Marathon Resources out of Arkaroola?

2.Did you have any communication or conversations with John or Davina Quirke from lobbyist firm Pallidon, Chris Schacht, or Senator Don Farrell over the future of Marathon Resources between October and December of last year?

3.Why weren't the Spriggs consulted by PIRSA about the conditions of the new licence, which is a clear breach of the understanding that you previously gave in this place about the importance of the relationship with the owners of the Arkaroola Sanctuary for the future success of mining activities on that site?

4.Why has the requirement for approval of the chief executive of the environment department prior to entering the Arkaroola Wilderness Sanctuary to carry out exploration been removed from the new licence?

The Hon. P. HOLLOWAY (15:12): I suggest that the Hon. Mr Parnell reads the press statement that was put out by the acting minister, the now Treasurer, Mr Snelling, in my absence in December. That remains the position, as far as I am aware, in relation to Arkaroola. For any other matters I suggest that he put his question on notice to the new Minister for Mineral Resources Development.

Thanks for that, ex-minister! Holloway's response is, regrettably, stamped from the same boilerplate that has sunk his party so low in public esteem in the first place. The people of South Australia are absolutely entitled to answers on this issue!

So, what would we find if we went looking for Labor's position, other than their obviously allowing a resumption of drilling? Incoming Minerals Minister Tom Koutsantonis has hardly been placed in an enviable position himself! Nevertheless, it was hard not to be struck by the farcical aspects of the news item that appeared 2 days after the announcement of the new drilling lease -

MARATHON Resources may still be banned from mining in the Arkaroola Sanctuary in the Flinders Ranges.

Environmentalists and Opposition parties have slammed the decision that allows the miner to keep exploring the sanctuary where it was found to have dumped radioactive waste.

Newly appointed Mineral Resources Minister Tom Koutsantonis yesterday said as part of the new conditions Marathon must minimise its disturbance to the environment.

"Marathon has been advised that the government is considering a range of conservation options which may involve exclusion, or limiting of mining," he said.


Note to party new-bloods and Mike Rann; yes, pursuing a policy of allowing mining in Arkaroola really is going to cost you! Apart from being simply wrong, this is a serious blow to both your electoral standing and your legacy.



  1. This bunch still feel untouchable IMHO.
    Beware, pride cometh before a fall!


  2. Can we arrange an intensive biological survey ASAP to find that which may only be present in these unique climatic circumstances? Can we then engage the EPBC Act? Is it possible? I'm in.


thanks for your contribution - bill - i'm genuinely sorry about having to switch on the 'moderation' process but comment spammers have really been cluttering up this journal!