By John Mikkelsen
(First published at On Line Opinion at http://www.onlineopinion.com.au/view.asp?article=15482&page=1 )
Mining captures politics. Governments change, but the politics and administrative procedures surrounding mining and resource developments don't.
That's the smoking gun claim by the author of a controversial new book just distributed to every Queensland State Parliamentarian.
While focussing on the Sunshine State, Road to Exploitation by Alec Lucke, has a broader message for all resource-rich states and territories, as well as the newly elected Coalition Federal Government.
Shock findings of the ICAC mining inquiry, which recommended criminal charges against former NSW Labor ministers Eddie Obede and Ian Macdonald, probably contributed to Labor's decisive defeat. But that could be the tip of an iceberg of shady deals transcending state borders.
Disgraced former Queensland Labor Minister Gordon Nuttall is currently serving two seven year sentences after losing an appeal following his conviction on a total 36 counts of receiving secret commissions worth almost $360,000 from coal mining executives Harold Shand and the late Ken Talbot between 2002 and 2005. But was he a scapegoat, as he claimed?
Earlier this year, Queensland Premier Campbell Newman supported calls by Lock the Gate Alliance's Drew Hutton for a Crime and Misconduct Commission investigation into serious allegations by former public servants that they had been pressured by the former Bligh administration to approve environmental impact statements for two massive coal seam gas projects in the Surat Basin without adequate time to study the implications.
Where there's smoke, there's usually fire, and Lucke has gone a step further by calling for a Royal Commission into "political capture by mining".
The book, encompassing administrative procedures from the Bjelke-Petersen era through to today, is being distributed in parliament by Gladstone Independent, Liz Cunningham.
It has already penetrated some international markets and Lucke wants each of the 89 State MP's to read it.
He says an examination of the judicial structure and restoration of a properly constituted Upper House in Queensland is also needed, to restore political accountability.
"The distribution of Road to Exploitation to Queensland parliamentarians is my personal contribution to this debate," Lucke says.
"The book authenticates not only landholders' concerns about unacceptable impacts upon their strategic cropping land and aquifers by coal and coal seam gas (CSG), but also concerns about damage to Gladstone Harbour's ecology.
"The contents justify the title, and demonstrate this principle: Capture executive government in Queensland and the regulatory and administrative processes are captured as well".
Lucke, who is now living in northern NSW, says he wants politicians to be confronted by examples of "sweetheart deals' entered into by the Queensland Cabinet over the years.
"The legacy described is a direct consequence of generations of brutal and reckless indifference by politicians.
"My accompanying message to them is, 'Please read with an open mind and then act according to your conscience.'
"Backbenchers need to understand and be properly informed that in Queensland, Executive Government has unbridled powers. Cabinet in multiple instances, operated in a vacuum without proper environmental assessment or consideration of risk analysis, with terrible consequences," Lucke says.
The book serves as both an historical record and a 'precautionary manual'. In addition to the current environmental concerns, it delves back to Mt Larcom district's pioneering era, the later development of limestone mining at the East End Mine in the 1970's and the formation of the East End Mine Action Group of which Lucke is a long-term member..
"The 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.
(The claim relating to the Gladstone industrial model seems to be borne out by a 'freeze' on development in the small Mt Larcom township because it is near the Gladstone State Development Area, set aside for major industrial expansion).
Mrs Cunningham told state parliament that issues covered by the book relate to the viability of farming pursuits and affects on farming families from mining projects.
"It highlights, too, the interaction between rural and urban Queensland, the interaction between business people and these farming communities.
"I would certainly recommend Members spend more than a few minutes reading this book".
Amen to that. While all resource companies and politicians can't be tarred with the same brush, his claims are serious enough to warrant some consideration.
Road to Exploitation by Alec Lucke can be ordered by going to the following link at Amazon