Letters to the editor

Letters to the editor

Opinion
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Take a look at what was on our readers minds this week.

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Environmental hypocrisy

FOR the past 20 years, my husband and I have experienced first-hand the mining industry’s attitude to impacted farmers and to rehabilitation. 

Now, their recent attacks on environmental charities makes my blood boil. As the unsuspecting neighbours of the Wambo underground coal mine near Singleton, our beef cattle business’ productivity has been cut almost in half.

As our land subsides and cracks open and our permanent creek is sucked dry, I can feel our patience towards the miners doing the same. 

Despite decades of word-fests, reports and promises, we have seen no real action at all from the mining company to rehabilitate our land, or our creek water.        

It turns out our experience is not isolated; only nine per cent of all mining land across Australia has been successfully rehabilitated. Across Australia there are massive voids filling with toxic water, poisoned or destroyed creeks and land subsiding. And the mining industry’s solution to their gaping mess: get environmental charities to clean it up!

Currently there are reforms being proposed to the Tax Deductibility Status of all sectors of charities by Federal Treasury. 

The miners see this as their chance to not only duck their own responsibilities, but to also pass the buck to environmental charities. The changes promoted by the mining sector, single out environmental charities only, for them to spend half their time on physical works to clean up the toxic messes created by the mining industry.

The hypocrisy is astounding. When I saw that one organisation close to my heart, the Lock The Gate Alliance, was under attack by these reforms, I was sickened. Without them, our fight to rehabilitate our farm would have been a lot harder. 

Their help with connecting us with politicians and government officials, getting our story into the media and sharing experiences of other mine-impacted people has been priceless. 

Most importantly they help to keep us sane, giving us hope that one day we will break the impasse of inaction by the miners.

We earn our money, we pay taxes and we can choose to support charities that we believe are helping to create a better world. 

They should be left alone to do their work without these extra burdens, designed to feather the nest of multinational mining companies.

Wambo mine, and hundreds like it across Australia, must factor the cost of properly rehabilitating land and water into their cost of doing business. 

Otherwise it is a sham business model that the community is subsidising.

The proposed changes could mean Lock the Gate would have less time to help advocate for the rights of farmers to produce clean food for Australia.

Instead, they’d be forced out into our paddocks with shovels, filling in the sink holes made by the mines.

We need groups like Lock the Gate holding the mining companies to account.

I appreciate the help in getting my voice heard as a food grower. We need this to be a public debate in our cities.

If these changes go through, our support of Lock the Gate would be wasted on endless clean up jobs, while the miners continue to make profits and mighty mess, skirting any legal responsibilities for rehabilitation. And I for one find that an abomination.

Miners, clean up your own mess and leave farmers and Lock the Gate alone.

Janet Fenwick,

Bulga. 

AWI is just fine

Following recent reports of Richard Norton and Meat and Livestock Australia’s (MLA’s) interest in Australian Wool Innovation (AWI) research funds, I would like to speak up for the work AWI does for us wool growers.

As a Merino stud breeder and a member of a passionate wool growing family I take great interest in what happens to our lives, both AWI and MLA.

Wool research has always been close to my heart as a lady who loves to wear woolen garments. I have always watched with pleasure the development of what is now beautiful top-end fashion fabrics made from Merino wool. This is just part of the results of AWI research and development. 

I would wax lyrical about lots of other things like $12 million invested in training shearers and wool handlers –  4000-plus of them; or sports-wool, which has spread the demand for wool and hugely increased demand for our product.

Then there is  the work done on and improvement of animal health and welfare through such things as Lifetime Ewe Management; $34m spent on fly-strike; or work on wild dog control measures.

All these are directly due to AWI practical investment in sheep-breeding and wool growing.

I am sure all in our industry are well aware of where our levies go and how well they are handled by the AWI. 

Please MLA, stick to your expertise in improving livestock and meats.

Sue McDonald,

Wallendbeen.

Stop the excuses 

The debate around affordable and reliable electricity rages, getting increasingly toxic and misleading.

In the remaining time between now and the closure of Liddell it should be possible to build plant that will provide the necessary system backup.

For example, gas turbines, solar storage (where there are a number of options) battery storage and demand management.

It is time that the government showed some leadership and demonstrated that it is not a captive of the coal industry.

Max Talbot, Cooma.

Oversight

You may have seen the recent media coverage relating to a focus group that was conducted on behalf of Australian Wool Innovation (AWI) by Axiom Research. I am writing to you directly to lay the facts on the table and give a clear understanding of what occurred.

In June, AWI employed an independent professional consulting company to facilitate a genetics consultation day. The consulting company regularly conducts focus groups and consumer research using a contemporary strategy where participants are together in a room and the client observes behind a one-way mirror so as not to influence participant responses. AWI has never held a focus group in this style before; it is, however, current normal practice in market research and focus groups. It is important to note that the breeders attending the day knew representatives from AWI were observing the focus session, without participating. The AWI board and CEO were unaware the focus group was being conducted in this fashion.

In his role as chairman, Wal Merriman feels a strong duty to have a good understanding of the attitude and feelings of growers to AWI direction and strategy, particularly on matters that may be contentious within the industry. For this reason he commonly joins such focus groups and AWI-organised consultation events. On this occasion, his presence at the day was requested by some breeders and once arrived, he asked the facilitator of the day if he could be in the room, face to face with the participants (as was his usual practice), but he was instead directed to sit behind the mirror with other AWI representatives.

Unfortunately, as an oversight, the facilitator did not directly inform the participants of Mr Merriman’s arrival or individual presence, which the company accepts as inadvertent error, and has written to participants to apologise. There was no subterfuge intended, nor any mal-intent. As an AWI representative observer, the chairman was clearly bound by confidentiality as were all other AWI representatives. His presence was in no way a contravention of his fiduciary duty as a board member.

STUART McCULLOGH,

Australian Wool Innovation chief executive.

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