Published with permission
Greens MLC Ian Cohen, with the help of the Greens and the Democrats passed a motion of no confidence in the Carr Government over its decision to approve the charcoal plant at Mogo.
All Labor supporters with the exception of one – Independents, Greens and Democrats crossed the floor to vote with the Opposition.
The motion included that all documents relating to the plant be tabled on May 15.
BLACK GOLD FOR COMMUNITY
The documents, tabled, are described by Mr Cohen as Oblack gold for the community. He invited Mayor of Eurobodalla Shire, Peter Cairney, members of the Charcoalition and members of the South East Forest Alliance (SEFA) to join him in an immediate inspection.
“Now we will be able to trace the web of lobbying that resulted in this appalling decision, a decision that overrides the South Coast communities and threatens both their environment and their economic future,” said Cohen. Mayor Cairney said, “I wouldn’t miss this for quids. Now, we can follow the trail of secretiveness that commenced in my Shire more than 12 months ago. We and our lawyers will be looking for many things in these documents, including when the Government was first aware that all charcoal trucks were to be directed through the length of the South Coast from Batemans Bay to Wollongong along the Highway of Hell.”
Chris Kowal, spokesperson for The Charcoalition, added the group’s ‘secret’ documents, which have been kept under lock and key for several months, hoping that the information contained therein would shed extra light on the paper trail.
He rose from his sick bed for this occasion.
Noel Plumb SEFA remarked, “It will be fascinating to see the records of the meetings between the senior government officials and Ministers and the lobbyists for the charcoal plant.
“I predict that the extent of access given to the ALP¹s old mates network as compared to the shut out of the community groups will make devastating reading.”
Year 12 Geography students from Chester Hill High in Sydney travelled to the Oaks Ranch, Mossy Point, adjacent to the charcoal plant site, to experience first hand the topics they had been studying for the HSC.
Most of the teenagers had never been in a rural area before and were agog with excitement. Their teacher Nichole Benton-Rich said all of them arrived long before departure time, eager for the excursion to begin.
Chester Hill High is multi-cultural. In this small group, the ethnic backgrounds were all different – Polish, Maltese, Khmer, Chinese, Vietmanese and Aboriginal.
Oaks Ranch was chosen because it offered access to first hand experience of their field of study – human impacts on ecosystems, urban dynamics including culture of a place as expressed in architecture, streetscape etc and ecosystems at risk.
The resort is itself an environmentally sustainable development co-existing with wetlands – Mogo was a perfect case study for urban dynamics and the impact of the charcoal factory was an incident of development placing the ecosystem at risk.
The students had been out all afternoon touring the wetlands with Gerry and Colleen Ennis, in spite of the rain. I overheard one of them say, “Now, I feel I really understand what we have been studying.”
Mayor Cairney arranged for two speakers to address the students – Peter Spurway an environmental consultant experienced in wetland ecosystems and Alan Grimwood a senior Planning officer at council. Nola Ford spoke on the impacts of the charcoal plant while the owner of Oaks Ranch, Kerry Ann Benton explained how Oaks Ranch manages to co-exist with the wetlands.
They were all bombarded with questions especially regarding the effects of heavy industry (charcoal plant) would have on the environment and why it was allowed to go ahead.
The students were not allowed to be interviewed or photographed due to a Department of Education directive but it was easy to tell that all of them thoroughly enjoyed their first foray into the country.
Leader of the NSW Liberal Party John Brogden has labeled the Premier¹s refusal to apologise to a 17 year old cadet journalist accused of lying by the Premier¹s office an indictment on his fitness to hold the highest office in the state.
“This smacks of the Cecil Hills High School disgrace,” Mr Brogden said.
“Once again we see this Government¹s disregard for the reputation and character of a young journalist who published Carr’s comment that the Mogo Charcoal Plant was ‘going ahead – end of story’ in the Eurobodalla Sun newspaper.
“Like the arrogance shown during the Cecil Hills debacle, the Premier has made a mockery of the seriousness of holding an Office of the Crown.
“The Opposition asked would he apologise to the journalist for the attempts by his staff to discredit the quote.
“His one word response – ‘No’ – says it all.”
Mr Brogden said that despite a signed statutory declaration, the journalist¹s own notes from the interview and a witness to endorse his version of events the Premier refused to reconsider his actions. He said that the Premier¹s response was akin to an admission of his part in the attempted witch hunt.
“The Office of the Premier is the highest in the state,” Mr Brogden said. “It is no place for Pinocchio, or arrogance towards an individual who was merely doing his job.
“His deliberate refusal to apologise is an indictment on his fitness to hold this Office.”