Premier orders review after $500,000 legal bill for Newman, Bleijie

May 16 2016 – 4:47PM 

Amy Remeikis

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The Premier has ordered a review of legal indemnity guidelines for ministers after taxpayers reportedly bore the brunt of a settlement worth more than $500,000 against Campbell Newman and Jarrod Bleijie over comments they made while in government.

The Guardian reported the former Premier and Attorney-General settled the case brought against them by Gold Coast lawyers after they referred to them as part of the “criminal gang machine”, for $525,000.

Former Queensland Premier Campbell Newman.
Former Queensland Premier Campbell Newman. Photo: Renee Melides

It reportedly could have been less, but the pair refused to make a public apology as part of the settlement.

Under government guidelines, ministers are protected from having to pay the costs themselves and the money is paid from taxpayer funds.

Choosing her words carefully, Annastacia Palaszczuk said she had ordered a review into that process.

“What I can confirm is the legal indemnity in relation to the case in question had been approved by the former government,” she said.

“That is point number one.

“Point number two is that I have written to my director-general last Friday asking him very clearly to re-visit legal indemnity guidelines for ministers into the future.

“And cabinet will be discussing those guidelines when we next meet in Brisbane on Monday.”

Ms Palaszczuk said she was “very concerned” about the payout.

“And that is why, I believe, that if you are a minister of the Crown, you need to take some responsibility for what you say in public,” she said.

“And that is why my government will give serious consideration to the re-drafting of those guidelines.

“Let me make it clear, the approval for the legal indemnity in this case was made under the former government.

“I can’t comment on those specific details, but suffice to say the new guidelines that will be in place will put a great deal of value on taxpayers’ money.”

Ms Palaszczuk said indemnity protections would remain, but the review would look at what guidelines were around it.

“There will still be a legal indemnity, but we are looking at the guidelines, around the indemnity, I think that is absolutely the right thing to do, I think taxpayers, the people of Queensland expect that and I have made a very clear decision,” she said.

“I have discussed it with Cabinet today that we will bring back a review into those guidelines.”

Shadow Attorney-General Ian Walker said legal indemnity had long been a feature of Queensland’s governance system and was approved by the Attorney-General or Premier of the day on a case by case basis.

“The guidelines for approval are public and are contained in the Ministerial handbook. They are only triggered when the Minister is acting in an official capacity,” Mr Walker said.

“Labor ministers including former Premier Anna Bligh and former Treasurer Andrew Fraser have received indemnity in the past. This longstanding policy extends to government ministers and senior public servants.”

Mr Walker said it was important that public officials were free to speak, make decisions and give advice without fear of being silenced by defamation writs.

“We hope the Premier’s review is not about political point-scoring,” he said.

“The LNP will consider any changes fairly and ensure the fundamental principles of the policy are not compromised.”

 

Source : The Brisbane Times

Queensland Election 2015: Campbell Newman resigns as premier

February 10, 2015 – 8:54PM

Amy Remeikis

Queensland state political reporter

Campbell Newman has tendered his resignation as Queensland Premier.

But he will remain as caretaker Premier until Queensland has an answer as to who will govern the state.

It is a question which has been left open since the January 31 election.

Labor Leader Annastacia Palaszczuk arrives at Government House on Tuesday.

Labor Leader Annastacia Palaszczuk arrives at Government House on Tuesday. Photo: Nick Wiggins/4BC

 

A hour after Mr Newman tweeted his intention to visit the Governor, a statement was released.

“This morning I tended [sic] my resignation as Premier of Queensland to his Excellency the Honourable Paul de Jersey AC, pending the appointment of a new Premier,” he said.

Campbell Newman has resigned as premier.

Campbell Newman has resigned as premier. Photo: Glenn Hunt/Getty Images

“In accordance with my constitutional duty, I have agreed it is my obligation to remain in office as caretaker Premier until that time.

“It is a duty I take very seriously and one I will continue to undertake to the best of my ability.

Not to be outdone, Labor leader Annastacia Palaszczuk also tweeted her intention to visit the Governor later in the afternoon.

She said it was a “courtesy call” to update His Excellency on the situation.

Earlier, newly-elected Liberal National Party leader Lawrence Springborg said “delicate” discussions with the two Katter’s Australian Party MPs were continuing.

Mr Springborg, LNP president Bruce McIver, and Katter’s Australian Party founder Bob Katter were spotted meeting at Waterfront Place in Brisbane’s CBD but left when spotted by the media.

Katter said they would wait until seats had been declared before announcing their support.

The third crossbencher, long-term Independent Peter Wellington, has already thrown his support behind Labor which would give the party the numbers needed to govern.

While counting continues, the LNP is expected to win 42 seats and Labor, 44.

A spokesman for Labor leader Annastacia Palaszczuk said they were still watching and waiting on the seat count.

The LNP is pushing for the state to remain in caretaker mode until all seats have been declared – including Ferny Grove, the result of which has already been disputed and is headed to the Court of Disputed Returns as soon as the count is finished.

The Palmer United candidate was discovered to be an undischarged bankrupt and therefore unable to stand for office.

It is understood to be the first time in modern political history that an election result has been disputed before the seat has been declared.

If the court declares the Palmer candidate’s votes affected on the seat’s result, it could declare it void, sparking a by-election.

That would be the only chance the LNP has to retain power. It would need to win the by-election and then win the support of the two Katter party MPs to form government.

The pair released a list of 21 priorities on Monday, among them, the right to move on fruit bats, an ethanol mandated percentage in fuel and an inland highway.

A spokesman for the Electoral Commission of Queensland said 10 seats had been declared already and electorates would continue to be progressively declared as the count was finalised.

That was not expected to happen on Tuesday.

On Monday, an ECQ spokesman said the count was not expected to be finished in all seats until the end of the week.

Caretaker provisions continue to remain in place.

A spokeswoman for Mr Springborg said Mr Newman’s actions were “consistent with what the LNP has said”.

“The LNP respects the office of the Governor and this is a matter for the Governor not politicians,” she said.

Stay informed. Like the Brisbane Times Facebook page.

 

Source : The Brisbane Times

Queensland Election 2015: Prime Minister blames media for Prince Philip knighthood distraction

January 28, 2015 – 10:53AM

Amy Remeikis

Queensland state political reporter

Premier Campbell Newman campaigns at Cannon Hill train station on Wednesday.

Premier Campbell Newman campaigns at Cannon Hill train station on Wednesday. Photo: Renee Melides

Prime Minister Tony Abbott has blamed “questioners” for stopping Queensland Premier Campbell Newman from focusing on his “strong team with a strong plan”.

The LNP released its costings plan early this week in an attempt to get the government’s campaign back on message after three days of mis-steps.

Prime Minister Tony Abbott and Premier Campbell Newman at the LNP party state convention in July.

Prime Minister Tony Abbott and Premier Campbell Newman at the LNP party state convention in July. Photo: Harrison Saragossi

That culminated on Australia Day with the Premier answering every question put to him – including those about Mr Abbott’s knighthood choices and industrial relations reform – with answers relating to jobs, the economy and his strong plan and team.

On Tuesday, Mr Newman said he had been “focused on other things” the Prince Philip knighthood issue, a “bolt from the blue” and saying he disagreed with it.

But when Mr Abbott was asked on Wednesday if he owed Mr Newman an apology for creating the knighthood distraction with his captain’s pick during the last week of a tight state election campaign, the Prime Minister shifted the blame elsewhere.

“He wants to focus on his strong team with a strong plan,” he said.

“I suspect it’s the questioners that have stopped him from doing it.

“My focus is on jobs and families and I’m looking forward to getting back to that as quickly as I can.”

Mr Abbott, who has not appeared in Queensland during the election campaign, said he had conversations with Mr Newman and was “very conscious of the fact that Campbell wants to run his own race”.

“And he’s entitled, as the Premier of Queensland, to run his own campaign,” he said.

“But I am very proud of this Government’s record when it comes to Queensland.

“We repealed the carbon tax, we’ve repealed the mining tax, we’ve committed almost $7 billion to the upgrade of the Bruce Highway, we’ve committed a billion dollars to the Gateway Motorway upgrade, we’ve committed $700 million to the Toowoomba Range crossing, so these are important decisions, in some cases national decisions with particular benefit to Queensland, in other cases they’re Queensland-specific decisions.”

Mr Newman and the LNP have distanced themselves from their federal counterparts, with Mr Newman repeatedly asking voters to judge his government on its own record, and not federal issues.

The election will be held this Saturday.

 

Source : The Brisbane Times

Queensland Election 2015: Newman feels heat as poll figures make sticky subject

January 17, 2015 – 4:03PM

Kim Stephens

Journalist

As the temperature climbed towards 35 degrees, stifling humidity caused Mr Newman to reach for his handkerchief on a number of occasions to wipe his forehead as he fronted the media for his daily press conference.

As the temperature climbed towards 35 degrees, stifling humidity caused Mr Newman to reach for his handkerchief on a number of occasions to wipe his forehead as he fronted the media for his daily press conference. Photo: Renee Melides

 

Premier Campbell Newman was feeling the heat in more ways than one in his Ashgrove electorate on Saturday morning.

As the temperature climbed towards 35 degrees, stifling humidity caused Mr Newman to reach for his handkerchief on a number of occasions to wipe his forehead as he fronted the media for his daily press conference.

But it seems the latest polls also had him a little hot under his Valley Cricket Club shirt collar.

A Galaxy poll commissioned by News Corp showed that Queensland could well be on track for a Labor victory, with double-digit swings tipped in some LNP seats in Brisbane and the south-east corner and a virtual electoral wipeout in the state’s north.

Mr Newman would not be drawn on why voters in the north appeared to be abandoning his government and even went as far as to concede its unpopularity in some quarters.

“You might not like us but you have got to say we are doing the right thing for Queensland with our strong plan for jobs,” he said.

Mr Newman described Labor’s unveiling of its economic plan on Friday as a “watershed moment” in the campaign, repeatedly echoing the comments of treasurer Tim Nicholls – that the fiscal strategy leaves a $1.3 billion budget black hole.

He said should Saturday’s numbers be reflected at polling booths on January 31, Queenslanders would be left with a government of “chaos and uncertainty”.

“We could see [Opposition Leader] Annastacia Palaszczuk and the Labor Party with independents and minor parties creating chaos in Queensland,” he said.

“That’s exactly what we could get, Annastacia Palaszczuk could be the next premier of Queensland and there is no plan, just a $1.3 billion black hole and chaos and uncertainty for Queensland.”

With polls also tipping the potential for a hung parliament, Mr Newman again reiterated his preference for an LNP opposition over dealing with minor parties and independents to form government.

“We were elected to clean up Labor’s mess. Annastacia Palaszczuk was there, Kate Jones was there, Curtis Pitt was there,” he said.

“We have got a whole host of Labor identities coming back.

“I say to Queensland today, the gang that got us into the mess is coming back and they are trying to actually pretend that they have a plan.

“They don’t have a plan, they have got a $1.3 billion black hole and they will take us into chaos and uncertainty.”

After a week on the hustings in regional Queensland, Mr Newman was back campaigning in Ashgrove on the day his Labor rival Kate Jones was due to launch her own campaign, accompanied by federal deputy leader Tanya Plibersek.

While the polling results in Ashgrove indicated more support for the Premier against Ms Jones than in previous surveys, he insisted his focus would remain on the entire state.

“It is a close race in every electorate and the stakes are high and I will be working everywhere to actually push the message that there is only one choice in this election campaign: that is the Newman LNP team,” he said.

It seems perhaps it’s not just the voting public Mr Newman is losing favour with.

Playing with his goddaughter Alice Myers, the daughter of his chief of staff Ben Myers, before Saturday’s announcement, he asked the toddler: “Can Campbell have a cuddle?”

“Noooo,” came the little girl’s emphatic response.

 

Source : The Brisbane Times

Queensland Election: Ashgrove Plan gets $18 million

January 11, 2015 – 4:15PM

Amy Remeikis

Queensland state political reporter

Annastacia Palaszczuk and Campbell Newman hold competing signs at the Samford Road-Wardell Street intersection in the seat of Ashgrove.

Annastacia Palaszczuk and Campbell Newman hold competing signs at the Samford Road-Wardell Street intersection in the seat of Ashgrove. Photo: Amy Remeikis

It’s called the Ashgrove Plan and it’s $18 million designed to keep the seat yellow and blue.

Premier Campbell Newman ventured into the outskirts of his electorate for his first campaign appearance, with a $5 million commitment to help the Mitchelton Youth Club expand.

He later appeared, sans media, outside the Ashgrove Woolworths where he met the first “real” people of the campaign, which began on Tuesday.

Premier Campbell Newman addresses the party faithful in Ashgrove for the first time in the campaign.

Premier Campbell Newman addresses the party faithful in Ashgrove for the first time in the campaign. Photo: Amy Remeikis

It gives rise to LNP backbencher fears from October, that Ashgrove would receive the bulk of the party’s promises, with their electorates to focus on the whole of state cost of living relief measures, and Strong Choices plans.

But Mr Newman said every electorate would have its “own strong plan”.

The Ashgrove Plan includes the previously announced widening of Waterworks Road between Trout Street and Betheden Terrace, a $7.5 million jointly funded project with Brisbane City Council.

Premier Campbell Newman and wife Lisa watch gymnastic students work out at Mitchelton Youth Club.

Premier Campbell Newman and wife Lisa watch gymnastic students work out at Mitchelton Youth Club. Photo: Amy Remeikis

A further $3 million is promised to Enoggera State School for its school hall, while $1 million is being committed to a new training area in St John’s Wood and a re-sealing of the Ashgrove Bowls carpark.

Stage two of the Walkabout Creek upgrade has been slated to be completed for $1.5 million and Mitchelton State High School would receive $160,000 to fix its basketball court. The maroon CityGlider bus service would be extended and environmental works at Kedron Brook would go ahead.

The Samford and Taylors Roads intersection would also get a look in, but it hasn’t been costed.

The new commitments come on top of the more than $100 million the state government has spent on the electorate since Mr Newman came to power.

He holds the seat by 5.7 per cent.  The Labor candidate, Kate Jones, the former member and Bligh government minister, has been running a grassroots campaign, door-knocking and politicking, mostly away from the media glare.

Mr Newman is also planning a quieter local campaign, as both sides seek to wash away the residual bitterness from 2012.

He launched his Ashgrove Plan to a small group of party faithful outside the youth club complete with glossy brochure, which he said every electorate could expect.

“Every electorate in Queensland will have a strong plan, just like Ashgrove,” Mr Newman said.

“There is an overall plan for the state and there are other plans and policies for the economy and education and health etc, but every area will have its own strong plan.

“I think it’s exciting.”

The campaign continues this week.

 

 

Source : The Brisbane Times

Queensland fire service’s culture of shame

December 19, 2014 – 4:17PM

Amy Remeikis

Premier Campbell Newman says a culture of sexual misconduct, sexual harassment, bullying and intimidation is not acceptable in any workplace.

Premier Campbell Newman says a culture of sexual misconduct, sexual harassment, bullying and intimidation is not acceptable in any workplace. Photo: Glenn Hunt

A “quite disturbing picture” has emerged of a “deep seeded” workplace culture that includes sexual harassment and misconduct, bullying and intimidation.  Queensland, this is your fire service.

An independent review of the handling of a complaint made by three female firefighters who were the subject of sexual harassment and misconduct involving “offensive material” and “derogatory and abusive commentary” has painted a frightening picture of the accepted culture within the Queensland Fire and Emergency Service.

There are just 69 permanent Queensland female firefighters in a service of about 2240 permanent personnel. There are no women ranked higher than inspector.

Former Bligh government Public Service Commissioner Margaret Allison, who also served as the Director-General of the Department of Communities under the LNP, found the state’s fire service was unprepared for the inclusion of women in 1995, that “at worst [was] actively and overtly hostile”.

“Further, a number of male officers freely express these negative attitudes in the workplace without apparent concern that they might incur social disapproval or be more formally sanctioned for doing so,” Ms Allison reported.

“Women recruits and firefighters alike are often called an offensive term of female genitalia by instructors, colleagues and more senior officers.  One officer indicated he heard this term on every shift.

“Other Queensland Fire and Emergency Services staff in positions of responsibility, such as Station Officers and academy instructors, have expressed their intention to prevent women firefighters from achieving academically or being promoted.

“It also appears that selection and training related information about recruits is circulated widely before their assignment to a particular station.  This occurs universally with women recruits, but also with male recruits who do not fit the cultural norm.”

In at least one case this included the confidential details of a recruit’s psychological testing being released to a Station Officer “and thereafter became more generally known”.

“All the women firefighters interviewed for this review had experience of being told directly by colleagues and station officers that women were not wanted in the fire service,” the report found.

“In one case, an officer was told on her first day, ‘I don’t want you here.  I don’t want to see you, I don’t want to smell you and I don’t want your girly deodorant in my truck’.”

Rumours followed female firefighters that they were either “subject[ed] to lesser standard of physical fitness” or given favourable treatment to pass the exacting conditions of the entry tests.

“In some cases it is openly asserted that sexual favours must have been provided in exchange for successful completion of the academy program,” Ms Allison reported.

Firefighters who object to ‘jokes’ or behaviour that could be considered as offensive or “even threatening” are told it was “just a joke” and labelled “a wimp or a whinger” and subjected to social exclusion or “even more extreme behaviour”.

“What is evident in this matter, and established through the review, is a tolerance for behaviour that would be completely unacceptable workplace behaviour in other environments and a failure to recognise the seriousness of particular behaviours,” Ms Allison found.

“When one female officer made a complaint to a senior officer about the sexually aggressive behaviour of a male colleague and provided some evidence to support her allegation, the officer’s response was that it probably wouldn’t be considered sexual harassment as there was no touching involved.  Despite the woman indicating she felt unsafe with the colleague she continued to be rostered on with him.”

The response

Premier Campbell Newman likened the report’s findings to the recent Australian Defence Force scandal.

Fire Commissioner Lee Johnson, who was appointed to the role in 2001 and has been part of the service since 1975, was due to retire in July next year.  Mr Newman said that was being fast tracked, with Mr Johnson now on long service leave, effective immediately.  Assistant police commissioner Katarina Carroll will serve as interim Fire Commissioner until the role is officially vacated by Mr Johnson.  Ms Carroll, who Mr Newman said had the “leadership skills, gravitas, and the ability to actually reform the Queensland Fire Service” has been charged with reforming the service’s workplace culture, with the “full support” of the government.

“I didn’t have confidence that the outgoing commissioner understood the gravity of the situation,” Mr Newman said.

“This is not about just a few bad apples, this is about a workplace culture, right through the organisation, that doesn’t understand what the norms of 2014 are.

“We had complaints about harassment and inappropriate use of social media that were made essentially a year ago.  They weren’t acted upon.  They weren’t acted upon appropriately. The women concerned, when they asked for advice, were given the wrong advice.

“The hierarchy of the  fire service did not properly investigate the matter and so essentially you went from late 2013 to September 2014 before any proper, independent investigation was launched by the fire service itself.”

Mr Newman, who said he and the minister responsible for the service, Jack Dempsey, “almost accidentally” became aware of the complaints at the same time and asked Ms Allison to conduct a review of their handling.

In a statement released as the report went public, Mr Johnson said he was “shocked and appalled” at some of the findings and was stepping aside “for a new leader to continue to develop and evolve our organisation”.

“Whilst I believe the vast majority of staff and volunteers always uphold our core values and treat each other with dignity and respect, this report’s findings indicate this is not always the case,” he said.

“I find this personally confronting as Commissioner as such behaviours are alien to me and certainly do not reflect the type of service I have sought to build during my career.”

Mr Newman thanked the women who made the original complaint for their “courage” and “patience” and apologised to them for what they had experienced.  At least one of the women has asked for a transfer, with Ms Allison finding none of the three were given the proper support by the organisation, had been told wrong information, and were forced to answer colleagues’ questions about the issue within the workplace, and in some cases were pressured into dropping the matter.

Ms Allison said she found “systemic” problems in the organisation “that limit its ability to respond appropriately and effectively to these matters, generally”, but added that Queensland was not unique.

“The issues identified in this review have been evident within other Australian jurisdictions and other countries with whom we have a lot in common, such as Canada and the UK,” she said.

“I also note that these issues have been evident in other uniformed cultures with a command control environment such as the Australian Defence Force and its academy.  Both of which were reviewed a couple of years ago by the Sex Discrimination Commissioner.”

The Sex Discrimination Commsioner’s included the establishment of a ‘small gender representative committee’ with an independent chair that would be tasked with developing a plan to “end discriminatory behaviour in the workplace and create greater gender equity across the organisation, including volunteers”.

She further recommended a complete overhaul of how the service deals with bullying and harassment complaints.

These will be considered by Ms Carroll, who will announce what recommendations she will accept in January.

Mr Newman said the government would also provide a detailed response at a later date.

“This is not about positive discrimination or about quotas for women…this is about saying that sexual misconduct, sexual harassment, bullying and intimidation is not on in the workplace,” Mr Newman said.

“It is about that.  End of story.  Period.  We are not launching some campaign to see more women employed in the Queensland fire service, that is up to women across this state, if they want to be employed.  What I have to give them, what the fire service has to give them is a safe, work environment where they have every opportunity to succeed.  And Margaret Allison has identified that as not there at the moment.”

Mr Newman said he expected change to take “three to five years, because that is how deep seeded it is”.

“This is not a problem that has come up over night.  This is something that has been built over the history of the fire service and it is akin to problems with the ADF, it is akin to problems in other fire services.

“These things become the norm, become the customary practice, and some organisations because of their nature don’t move effectively with the times and that is what we have here.”

He said he had asked Crown Law to review the report and some of the incidents that occurred and did not rule out individuals being charged as a result. A separate review into the rural fire service has also been recommended.

But both Ms Allison and Mr Newman paid tribute to the work the state’s firefighters do.

Ms Allison said she was “optimistic” there would be widespread accepted change.

“Quite rightly, firefighting is a very highly regarded career in our community,” Ms Allison said.

“Firefighters undertake some of the most difficult and dangerous work we have ever asked people to do.

“They have a long and proud history of service, but some of the traditions of the past must be let go to embrace future opportunities and ensure the fire service is staffed with the best and most capable men and women.”

Mr Newman said he did not believe a “witch hunt” was necessary but a big change was required to bring the service’s workplace practices into 2014.

“Get ready for change,” Mr Newman said to the service.

“We all respect what you do, we all respect your role, we all respect the bravery you show, but understand that change is coming to the Queensland Fire Service and I am sure that the people of Queensland when they see this report will expect change to occur.”

 

Source : The Brisbane Times

Channel Country Aborigines take mining frustrations to the United Nations

December 4, 2014 – 12:00AM

Tony Moore

brisbanetimes.com.au senior reporter

Scott Gorringe with his son Todd in the land over which Mithaka has a Native Title claim.

Scott Gorringe with his son Todd in the land over which Mithaka has a Native Title claim. Photo: The Wilderness Society

Queensland Channel Country Aborigines say they are so frustrated with a lack of communication with Mines Minister Andrew Cripps they are taking their concerns over oil and coal seam gas fracking to the United Nations.

They have prepared a detailed submission of their concerns to the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous People.

That submission will be made on Thursday.

Aborigines are seeking UN help to fight fracking in the western Queensland Channel Country.

Aborigines are seeking UN help to fight fracking in the western Queensland Channel Country. Photo: The Wilderness Society

It is the second time in two years an arm of the United Nations has been asked to investigate the impact of Queensland Government policies, after UNESCO began investigations into the Great Barrier Reef in 2013.

Article 19 of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples asks that “states” consult with indigenous people, to obtain their “free, prior and informed consent” before taking action which could affect them.

The Mithaka people have claim over five million hectares of Channel Country land in the Cooper Creek basin near the Queensland-South Australia border.

Fears for both the above-ground water and subterranean water health of the Channel region are held.

Fears for both the above-ground water and subterranean water health of the Channel region are held. Photo: The Wilderness Society

Exploration leases for oil and coal seam gas cover 1.7 million hectares (roughly a third) of this land and the majority of those oil and coal seam gas leases in the Channel Country are held by mining company Santos.

The Mithaka people say Queensland’s third-largest oil spill – 240,000 litres of oil from Santos’s Zeus Mine on May 15, 2013 in the Cooper Basin – received very little scrutiny.

They are worried a similar oil spill from a well during the wet season could spread quickly through the Cooper Creek Basin to Lake Eyre and could impact the Great Artesian Basin.

Scott Gorringe is the youngest of 11 brothers and sisters from the Gorringe family, traditional land owners of the Mithaka people’s land in the Channel Country.

He also holds a Masters in Rural Systems Management and has held positions as Visiting Fellow at Queensland University of Technology and Adjunct Senior Lecturer at University of Queensland.

“My dad, Bill Gorringe, is from that country and my grandmother – his mother Nunklea – is from that country,” he said.

“Dad was born on country on a property named Glengyle and we’ve always grown up on that country and connected to those stories.”

Scott Gorringe says Aboriginal people in the Channel Country do not want oil or gas mining in their country.

“There is strong agreement that we don’t want coal seam gas or shale gas operations anywhere near that country or anywhere near those flood plains,” he said.

Mr Gorringe said the Mithaka people have repeatedly tried to speak to the Queensland Government and to Mines Minister Andrew Cripps.

“We have tried to be in touch with the government through email contacts and through letters to try to get them to have a conversation with us,” he said.

“And they have ignored us.”

Mr Gorringe said Mr Cripps did not include him on the Western Rivers Advisory Panel (WRAP), when he had been on the previous Wild Rivers Advisory Panel.

“This fella, this Minister Cripps has been really devious about the way they have interpreted that,” he said referring to a news story in Queensland Country Life where Minister Cripps told readers he was still on the consultation group, when he had not been included.

“He knew that, he set it all up.”

Mr Gorringe said there was now a wide cross-section of Aboriginal people in Queensland who believe Mr Cripps has not consulted with them.

Mr Cripps was given responsibility for developing future growth in the Western Rivers region and the Lake Eyre basin after the March 2012 election.

The organisation guiding growth in the region, the Western Rivers Advisory Panel, reported in its 2013 annual report that consultation needed to be much wider.

In recommendation 5; it specifically asked for three tighter controls over mining activities where they could impact the Great Artesian Basin;

  • “that the Great Artesian Basin recharge areas should be protected from the cumulative effects of mining.”
  • “that mining activity should not be authorised if it has the potential to reduce/interfere with natural flows.”
  • “that mining requirements must include no interference of flows to major rivers, major tributaries and floodplains.”

A spokesman for Mr Cripps said the Queensland Government acknowledged some people in the community had concerns in relation to potential resources development and the sustainable use of water in the Channel Country.

“There is also a clear desire amongst a number of community leaders and local residents in the same region for economic development and job opportunities,” the spokesman said.

The spokesman said the Mithaka people’s Native Title claim has not yet been determined and disputed that there had been no communication between the Minister and the Mithaka people.

“The Queensland Government has notified the relevant Native Title applicant of proposed activities through their legal representative,” the spokesman said.

He said the Western Rivers consultation process involved equal representation from those concerned about the environment, from indigenous representatives, councils, graziers and the resources sector.

“Oil and gas activity has occurred in this part of Queensland since the 1960s, providing valuable employment opportunities and economic activity that supported local communities,” the spokesman said.

“The resources sector has co-existed with indigenous, grazing and tourism interests for many, many years and we strongly believe that it can and will continue to do so.”

The spokesman said Santos provided advice on the May 2013 oil spill to the Department of Natural Resources and Mines, the Department of Environment and Heritage Protection.

“Santos provided the findings of its investigation to the Petroleum and Gas Inspectorate, including recommendations to review its standard oil well designs and operating procedures,” the spokesman said.

“The Petroleum and Gas Inspectorate has made recommendations for further improvement and the investigation was closed.”

Scott Gorringe now lives and works as an educator in Canberra with his own company calledMurrimatters.

He says the Mithaka people have not been consulted, despite their long-held objections to oil and gas mining.

“None of the Mithaka people were involved in it,” he said.

“I am the representative to speak on behalf of all that mob out there.

“Nobody has spoken to me and I can’t get an audience with them.”

He points to a quote from Queensland Premier Campbell Newman on October 5, 2011 when he promised to put Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people “in the driver’s seat” in listening to their views on traditional lands.

“Not only are we not in the driver’s seat, we aren’t even in the car,” Mr Gorringe said.

“We are now forced to use international law to protect our rights.”

 

Source : The Brisbane Times