Dear Premier Palaszczuk
I was extremely concerned to read in Dr Lynham’s media release of 14 May that the Government is seeking interest from around the world in exploring for oil and gas in southwest Queensland, specifically the Cooper and Eromanga Basins.
I would like to ask first of all if you have visited Queensland’s Channel Country? If you haven’t, I encourage you to do so. It is a unique landscape. There is something fascinating and enchanting about ephemeral waterways and the ecosystems they sustain. In an arid and otherwise stark environment, the presence of water draws birds into the area, often in their hundreds of thousands; encourages the rapid flowering of a variety of low-growing plants; and allows tree-lined water courses to stand like beacons across vast, apparently lifeless plains.
Throughout its history of settlement, Australia has changed beyond restoration much of its natural landscape. Rather than learning from past mistakes, in the 21st century the nation rushes headlong into further resource development. I have been attending the Land Court case against Adani Mining and their plan for the country’s largest coal mine. Some of the findings before the Court are of enormous significance to decision-makers within state and Commonwealth governments.
Additional knowledge revealed by expert witnesses’ research has again highlighted the huge risks to groundwater from mining. In the case of the Carmichael Mine, this includes a unique spring complex that enables the existence of rare flora and fauna. The endangered Black-Throated Finch is being deliberately placed under even greater stress. What is known now about these features was not appreciated when the EIS and SEIS were submitted or when the Co-ordinator General set out his conditions of approval. Adani’s Biodiversity Offsetting Strategy appears woefully inadequate in the light of what we now know about the BTF population on the mine site, to mention just one concern.
Many Queenslanders have grave fears for the state’s extraordinary landscapes and biodiversity. Water issues in the far west are even greater than in the Galilee Basin because of risks posed to the Lake Eyre Catchment by water extraction, the diversion of water courses and pollution.
It is essential for climate change mitigation that all remaining fossil fuels stay in the ground. Weather extremes are already having an impact and much worse is to come. Australia has so far been extremely tardy in both its reaction to this crisis and in taking responsibility for its carbon emissions. In the Land Court we heard the defence that Adani were not compelled to model scope 3 emissions in their cost/benefit analysis, which beggars belief.
I implore you not to proceed with your plans for Queensland’s southwest. This is a fragile environment that needs your utmost protection. The clamour for jobs should not be quelled by further mining development but the expansion of community renewable energy projects and support for agriculture. The ability of Australia’s farmers to produce food in a challenging future is not a subject we hear much about yet, even though it is of far greater import than any mineral extraction in the present.
I was relieved and filled with hope when Labor was elected in January. Environmentally, the Newman government is an easy act to follow, but last week’s announcement shocked me. I do hope you will see fit to reconsider a plan that can only bring degradation and harm to the Channel Country. I have visited this region several times and speak in the heartfelt hope that you will engage with me on this important issue.
With kind regards
Post script This letter was also sent to the Deputy Premier Jackie Trad, Resources Minister Anthony Lynham, and Environment Minister Steven Miles. Today, after this post was written, I received a reply from Steven Miles. I will wait to see if I hear anything from the others before reporting further.