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Issue #1655      September 10, 2014

Landmark People’s Bill in Queensland

The landmark “People’s Bill” was officially launched in Brisbane last week with Queenslanders saying they’ve had enough of corruption and cronyism and taking a stand for a fair go for all.

About 150 Queenslanders from all walks of life attended the official launch of the People’s Common Rights and Provisions Bill 2014 (People’s Bill) at the Fox Hotel in South Brisbane.

Kym Garrick, of Wynnum West, gave a very personal account of why such a Bill is urgently needed in Queensland: she was sacked from her job for having a Clean Air Qld sign in her car. Other speakers included prominent barrister, Stephen Keim SC, director of the Centre for Environmental Excellence for Environmental Decisions (CEED), Professor Hugh Possingham, Lock the Gate Alliance’s president, Drew Hutton and representatives from community groups.

Community members last month tabled the People’s Bill in an historic event at State Parliament. The Bill aims to restore our common rights eroded by the mining industry and dodgy governments. It sets a new “clean agenda” for the state. Keynote speaker Stephen Keim, said such a Bill was long overdue in Queensland.

“When one reads the People’s Bill for the first time, one is struck with two conflicting emotional responses. On the one hand, one thinks that this is basic common sense that no one could oppose but, at the same time, one feels that the ideas are in the realm of fairy tale and pie in the sky,” he said.

“It is an indictment of the state of our polity that one does feel that achieving the basic values laid down in the Bill might be unrealistic. Indeed, that emotion underlines how much a strong people’s movement is needed to renew the Queensland democracy.”

Drew Hutton said: “Unfortunately the current Newman government is even worse than the Joh Bjelke-Petersen regime at stripping away Queenslanders rights and that’s why we need this Bill.

“Around 150 Queenslanders [at the launch] cheered and applauded this vision for a cleaner and fairer state. When we hold our people’s parliamentary debate on this Bill next month, we will be squarely telling Queensland mining politics that the people are coming for you like a hurricane this coming state election, and will clean this place up whether you like it or not.”

The event, live-streamed to viewers across Australia, also featured the Queensland Sadies, a travelling troupe of “political cleaners” who offer their services to help make politicians’ offices and dealings more transparent.

They performed their theme song, Clean Up the Political Pigsty, sung to the tune of John Farnham’s classic, Sadie the Cleaning Lady.

Meanwhile, in NSW, the hearing on the Maules Creek Coal Mine has been adjourned following dramatic news that Whitehaven Coal have approached the State government to have their contested management plan varied and thus render the legal proceedings redundant.

This means that the Secretary of the Department of Planning and Environment must soon make a decision on whether to let Whitehaven change the rules and clear Leard Forest in spring when young native animals are likely to be killed in their nests.

“The adjournment follows news that instead of waiting for a court decision on the legality of the Biodiversity Management Plan, Whitehaven have decided to amend their plan entirely so that they can bulldoze Leard forest in spring and early summer” said Phil Laird for the Maules Creek Community Council.

“This places the welfare of the threatened animals of Leard State Forest squarely in the hands of the new Secretary of the Department of Planning and Environment, and the relevant Ministers – Pru Goward and Rob Stokes.

“It’s a massive test for the NSW government – are they capable of standing up for the environment against the shifting demands and production timetable of a mining giant?

“Or will they approve a new Biodiversity Management Plan, allow the slaughter of young native animals in their nests, and prevent our case from ever being heard in court?

“If approved, this new plan would be yet another example of how coal mining has corrupted due process in NSW – the miner breaks the rules, the community pings them for it, and then the government changes the rules to suit the miners.

“The NSW government needs to finally find the courage to enforce basic regulations on coal mining and stop moving the goal posts to suit the mining industry,” Laird said.

The Maules Creek Community Council sought an interim injunction in the NSW Land & Environment Court in June, challenging the Biodiversity Management Plan under which Whitehaven had commenced clearing in winter.

The injunction proceedings resulted in Whitehaven being forced to stop clearing until a full hearing on the case.

Next article – Rally for rights

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