One of the interesting fall outs of the coal seam gas controversy has been the alliance between farmers and green groups, such as GetUp. Not too long ago, these groups were butting heads over the export of live cattle but now they are united against a common cause. We’ve seen the same thing happening in politics, with the Greens and Nationals sharing a common stance on this issue.
The CSG controversy is funny like that – it touches on all sorts of topics and affects all different aspects of the community. Even within individual groups, the feelings aren’t clear.
The overwhelming voice from the farming community to date has been one of objection against the mining companies. However, that’s starting to change. Some farmers have had good relationships with the mining companies and are speaking up about it. Ree Price on the CSG episode of Insight said this:
We have had mainly positive [interactions] with the two companies that we are dealing with and all the contractors of course. But ours has been a fairly positive story. We have worked along with the companies involved and have been kept in the loop and asked questions until we find out answers.
It sounds quite different to the commonly accepted belief that mining companies force their way onto private property and keep important information hidden from property owners.
What I find interesting is the way that the media and broader community get hooked on a particular narrative. There have been a few bad situations where safety procedures have failed or farmers haven’t been sufficiently consulted. But rather than see these situations as ‘once offs’, there seems to be a perception that case-studies are all that’s needed to support an argument. A narrative has been developed and we keep telling the same story over and over.
The thing is, case-studies can be useful to highlight and demonstrate problems, but they aren’t the full story. It’s important to ask what’s happening on all those farms that aren’t in the media. Chances are, it’s just business as usual.