By John Mikkelsen
GOVERNMENTS change but the politics surrounding mining and resource developments don’t, according to the author of a controversial new book about to be launched in Gladstone.
‘Road to Exploitation’ subtitled ‘Political Capture by Mining in Queensland’ follows years of pains-taking research and writing by long-term environmental activist and former Mt Larcom resident, Alec Lucke.
It will be released at an invitational and public book launch party at the Gladstone Art Gallery, 2 pm Friday (July 19). Lucke describes his work as partly autobiographical, and human interest. He said yesterday:
“This historical account and social commentary on mining and industrialisation is a once in a lifetime publication.
“The book authenticates not only landholders’ concerns about coal and CSG's unacceptable impacts upon their strategic cropping land and aquifers, but also concerns about damage to Gladstone Harbour's ecology through examples of sweetheart deals entered into by Cabinet that bound the government's regulatory and administrative agencies to policies of minimum compliance, lack of regulatory enforcement, false benchmarking of the science and eventually, abandonment of co-existence with behind the scenes resignation of unavoidable impacts.
“The book's contents and documentation justify the title and demonstrate this principle: Capture executive government in Queensland and the regulatory and administrative processes are captured as well”.
Lucke says the book serves as both an historical record and a ‘precautionary manual’. By example, it authenticates current concerns about the Coal Seam Gas and Gladstone Harbour controversies while delving back to Mt Larcom district’s pioneering era and the later development of limestone mining in the 1970’s.
“The Mt Larcom Mining Protest Group opposed the entry of an open cut limestone mine and cement facility into their dairying and farming district.
“With the limestone resource prioritised for cement manufacture and wider industrial applications, mining began in 1979 and the protest group ceased to function in the early 1980s”.
From 1980 to 1995, the book provides social commentary on industrialisation, local politics, regional organisations and individual public profiles.
“In 1995, the government cancelled Queensland Cement Ltd's coral dredging leases in Moreton Bay and committed to an incentive package for trebling of the East End Mine, a railway line and new cement kiln at Fisherman's landing.
“A fast-tracked Impact Assessment Study for a $220m expansion triggered the formation of the East End Mine Action Group (EEMAG) and coincided with rookie Independent Member for Gladstone Hon Liz Cunningham’s balance of power support for the Borbidge coalition government.
“With the water monitoring data collected but not analysed for 15 years, EEMAG challenged the State's pre-emptive approvals and as controversy raged, local real estate values and saleability collapsed as landholders contested the science and fought for compensation and replacement water supplies under 'make good' provisions.
“This narrative explores the dynamics of protest groups and reflects upon the dogged persistence and commendable social justice ideals of experts independent of the government or company whose professional opinions were officially disregarded.
“It tells of landholder's conflict with industrial development and their distress as their precious water was discharged continuously as waste; it outlines the group's philosophical commitments, negotiations and legal and political dilemma as they won replacement water supplies and sought recognition that their small farms, lifestyles and the environment were irreversibly damaged. It chronicles the demise of farming and the ironic circumstances that eventually restored district values…
“The EEMAG / East End Mine / Regulating Agencies dispute continues with the interests of the Gladstone industrial model and a mine privately owned by the world's largest cement company placed ahead of other stakeholders, the district's progress and the environment,” Lucke claims.
His narrative in print and ebook versions quotes from 170 documents many obtained under FOI, and provides electronic links to 74 otherwise publicly unavailable files.