Alan Jones 2GB Breakfast Show September 25th 2002 7:26am
Published with permission
Jones: Well one of the beauties of the modern developments in politics in the last only 18 months, is people power. A massive triumph yesterday on the South Coast – plans for the charcoal plant that I’ve been talking about for some time is scrapped. Australian Silicon, the company behind the proposal told the Stock Exchange it needed to find another site after a sustained campaign by local residents. According to Peter Anderton, the Managing Director of Australian Silicon, it was never an environmental issue, it was a community issue – how can you separate the two bearing in mind the impact it would have had on both. The processing plant would have covered 4 hectares; it would have had 5 chimneys, each more than 30 metres or 11 storeys high; it would have operated 24 hours a day, 350 days a year; it would have consumed 200,000 tonnes of timber a year, producing between 30,000 and 35,000 tonnes of charcoal a year, which would have been taken for processing at Lithgow. The timber and charcoal transport would have resulted in 20,000 additional heavy truck movements a year on the Princes Highway. Well not any more. Among those who were cheering yesterday I’m sure, was the young man Brett Mason. Remember. He was the 17 year-old, doing his HSC who took the Premier on over comments the Premier made on the granting of the approval for the plant. Lets go back to young Brett Mason, he’s on the line – good morning.
Mason: Hi Alan, how are you going?
Jones: I’m very well thank-you. It must have been a big night down there?
Mason: It was, I had an early one myself, but no, it was a very big night down here in Batemans Bay last night.
Jones: And during the application process, Planning NSW had 1530 submissions from 1220 individuals and groups?
Mason: That’s right, that’s one of the largest submissions that they’ve ever received, so that just goes to show what kind of a community we are down here. It was no doubt the biggest rally, the biggest campaign and the biggest united front that this Shire has ever put up and it was something really magical to watch.
Jones: And even members of the Labor Party were opposed to it?
Mason: That’s right, members of the Labor Party, our local branch, was opposed to the location of the charcoal plant – that’s right.
Jones: Now the Premier is saying today of course, that 400 jobs have been sacrificed, but this plant will go somewhere else – Bombala want it, so the jobs will be available at Bombala, won’t they?
Mason: Well that’s my understanding, yes, yes.
Jones: You’re still at school, aren’t you?
Mason: I am, last day tomorrow, I finish, graduate from the Bay High tomorrow.
Jones: Good on you. Now you took the Premier on, how do you feel about that today? [Mason: Um] He told you the plant was going ahead, that’s it.
Mason: It’s bittersweet though, like it’s tremendous that we sort of won the battle but the war is not over in regards to how the actual handling of the charcoal plant went. It’s about the voice of the people, as all of those submissions and the people that tried to contact the Premier. Apart from our Labor representative down here, our Labor candidate, I’m fairly sure that I am the only person, the only person who’s tried to contact the Premier, but I’ve managed to speak to him face to face. And that just shows that all the letters and faxes that people have written to him asking for explanations, and he refused them – that’s what the battle was about.
Jones: How many letters did you write to the Premier?
Mason: Um, up to 25 now, about the comments that were made.
Jones: And how many were answered?
Mason: Ah, of course none, none.
Mason: I’m still waiting and I am determined that, that the Premier will return my letters because I think it’s wrong that someone such as the Premier, who is basically a public servant, who is there to serve the needs of us and is elected by us to, to hear our concerns and respond, I think it’s so bad that he can’t respond. What kind of a man is too afraid or, or not prepared to write a letter to a 17-year-old boy, I can’t believe it, it’s just amazing.
Jones: Okay, well we’ll leave it there. Thank-you for your time.
Mason: Thanks so much Alan, and I’ll talk to you some time later, I’m sure.
Jones: Indeed. Brett Mason – something pretty special. So that’s all over then. The power of the public voice, and after all, that is essentially what representative democracy is about. It is meant to be Government of the people and by the people, for the people. I know it’s a bit of a cliche but that’s the way it is. That’s it down the South Coast, the beautiful, pristine South Coast. There’ll be no losses to NSW, that will go somewhere else, Australian Silicon will most probably relocate it in Bombala and start again.
[Charcoalition note – Australian Silicon announced a new charcoal plant would be built on one of two sites on the east coast of Australia. Managing director Peter Anderton said a decision on the site would be made within the next few weeks.]