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Alliance Calls for Inquiry as Another NSW Mines Minister Bites the Dust

4th December 2013 The Lock the Gate Alliance has called for a broad-ranging inquiry into the management of coal and coal seam gas mining in NSW, after Mineral Resources Minister Chris Hartcher resigned from Cabinet today following reports of an ICAC raid on his office.

The action by ICAC is understood to relate to alleged illegal donations which forced the suspension of Mr Hartcher's former staffer, Ray Carter.

"Chris Hartcher is the third Minister for minerals resources to fall under the shadow of an ICAC investigation this year, following corrupt conduct findings against former Ministers Eddie Obeid and Ian MacDonald" said Carmel Flint, Campaign Co-ordinator with Lock the Gate Alliance.

"The community has lost all faith in the integrity of the Ministers who control mining in this state, and can no longer trust the NSW Government to put the interests of the wider public ahead of the profit-driven agenda of mining companies.

"Even though we understand today's actions by the ICAC are not directly related to coal or gas mining, if Mr Hartcher is found to have acted corruptly, it means that once again, mining in this state has been overseen by someone that does not uphold the highest standard of integrity and cannot be trusted to act in the public interest

"The only way to restore public belief in the system is conduct a comprehensive inquiry into the management of coal and gas resources in NSW, and to make far-reaching changes to reduce Ministerial discretion and introduce strict checks and balances.

"The first step should be to fully implement the recommendations that have been made by ICAC on mining law reform to date and then to conduct a far more broad-reaching and independent inquiry into all aspects of mining law and regulation in NSW.

"The future of our finest agricultural lands, precious water resources and thriving rural communities is at stake - we can no longer allow the shadow of corruption to cloud decision-making on these important matters" she said.

Hartcher's resignation an opportunity to restore balance to mining portfolio

4 December 2013  The Greens mining spokesperson Jeremy Buckingham today welcomed the resignation of Resources and Energy Minister Chris Hartcher saying it presented an opportunity to restore balance to the position and called on Premier Barry O'Farrell to appoint a minister who respects the importance of agriculture and water resources, and who will actively promote renewable energy.

"Minister Hartcher treated community concerns about mining with utter contempt and many people, including the Greens will be saying good riddance," said Greens MP Jeremy Buckingham.

"He was a one-eyed supporter of coal and coal seam gas over renewable energy and the Greens welcome the announcement that he has resigned.

"Minister Hartcher was very opaque about lobbying activities, refusing to answer basic questions about meetings with lobbyists such as former federal minister Santo Santoro - a factional ally within the hard right of the Liberal Party.

"The Premier should ensure the next minister for resources and energy respects the community and environmental concern about coal seam gas and the expansion of coal, actively promotes renewable energy, and understands the need to restore public confidence in the the administration of mining in NSW.

"Chris Hartcher is the third resources minister to be investigated by ICAC, after Eddie Obeid and Ian Macdonald. The Premier should take this opportunity to conduct a root and branch reform of the administration of mining in NSW, including the implementation of recommendations recently made by ICAC."

Here's a press release from Hartcher ...


29 November 2013 An independent report has highlighted the potential for NSW households to suffer severe gas shortages during winter months if proposed gas projects in Narrabri and Gloucester are not brought on line by 2017.

Energy Minister Chris Hartcher said the findings, released today by the Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO), supported the NSW Government’s view that future gas availability was inadequate without new local supply, with AEMO suggesting restrictions on usage may have to be imposed.

“Over 1.2 million households in NSW rely on gas for their heating and cooking needs and could be affected by shortages when existing sources from South Australia are diverted to meet export commitments and if proposed projects in NSW don’t get off the ground,” Mr Hartcher said.

“AEMO’s ‘2013 Gas Statement of Opportunities’ outlines the shortfall in NSW by 2018 would be up to 200 terajoules a day over a seven month period.
“That equals half the average daily demand for gas in NSW, or around one third of demand on a peak winter day – potentially affecting around half a million households across the State.

“It would particularly impact upon our manufacturing industries, many of which are already struggling to meet their energy needs in a competitive environment.

“The NSW Government is keenly aware of the energy challenges being faced by our manufacturing industries, businesses and households across the State.

“As a State highly dependent upon imported gas - producing just 5% of our gas needs - we welcome AGL’s and Santos’ continuing commitment to and investment in the NSW market, whose projects will greatly assist NSW meet its future domestic gas needs.”

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