Farmers, politicians unite to fight carbon capture ‘science experiment’ in Great Artesian Basin

Farmers, politicians unite to fight carbon capture ‘science experiment’ in Great Artesian Basin

Agriculture leaders, politicians, farmers and supporters have met in Brisbane to challenge mining company Glencore’s proposal to store waste carbon dioxide in Australia’s biggest underground freshwater system, the Great Artesian Basin (GAB).

Queensland’s peak representative body for farmers, AgForce, appeared in the Federal Court today as part of its recently launched legal action against the federal government.

It is calling for federal Environment Minister Tanya Plibersek to revoke a decision made by the previous government in 2022 that the project was “not to be a controlled action under national environment law as it is unlikely to result in a significant impact on nationally protected matters”.

At a press conference after the brief court appearance, AgForce chief executive Michael Guerin said his organisation did not want to be in court, but had no choice.

“We continue to plead with politicians — stand with us, walk with us, protect what we take for granted for future generations, so that the young people in the court today can look back on us as leaders,” Mr Guerin said.

‘[So they] can look back on Minister Plibersek as one of the leaders of this nation that looked after what’s important for those generations.

“We walk into the supermarkets … and we find clean, healthy, locally grown food on those shelves, reasonably priced.

“We take it for granted. It is at risk.”

A senate inquiry into the carbon capture project is due to deliver a report by July.(ABC News: Lucas Hill)

Covering more than 1.7 million square kilometres, the basin spans more than a fifth of the continent, is worth about $13 billion to the national economy and is a vital resource for communities and businesses.

Glencore subsidiary CTSCo is seeking to inject hundreds of thousands of tonnes of liquefied carbon dioxide into the basin.

The technology has been hailed as a way Australia could open new oil and gas projects while combating climate change.

Glencore has rejected claims the project was unsafe, saying it was based on robust scientific field work reviewed by third-party experts.

The Great Artesian Basin supplies water to farms and communities across a huge area of the country.(ABC Rural: Maddelin McCosker)

Opponents expect national impact

National Farmers’ Federation chief executive Tony Mahar said it was not just a state issue but a nationally significant issue.

“This is the greatest water resource in the driest continent on Earth,” Mr Mahar said.

“It is being disrupted by what amounts to a science experiment.”

Jo Sheppard says the Great Artesian Basin should have policy protection from government.(ABC News: Lucas Hill)

Queensland Farmers’ Federation chief executive Jo Sheppard said the lack of policy to protect the asset at a state and federal level was appalling.

She said she was disappointed the responsibility to protect something as important as the GAB had fallen to farmers, small business owners, conservationists and other community members.

“It’s not good enough,” Ms Sheppard said.

“We need the state government and the federal government to step up, to act and to do their job.”

Federal Member for Flynn Colin Boyce is opposed to the plan.(ABC News: Lucas Hill)

Federal Member for Flynn Colin Boyce said the GAB was the outback’s version of the Great Barrier Reef and needed to be protected.

“What we have here is a proposal by a company to literally take a dump in our water source and tell everybody it’s alright,” he said.

“We’re going to stop this no matter what it takes. I will die on the political hill over it.”

KAP leader Robbie Katter urged politicians to listen to people in remote and regional areas, which he said were under-represented in Brisbane and Canberra.

“We need everyone’s help to stand up together against this scourge from these mining companies that are exploiting our resources here in Australia, and attacking this great natural pristine waterway that we have,” Mr Katter said.

The Katter Australia Party has been vocal in its opposition to the project.(ABC News: Lucas Hill)

Federal Member for Kennedy Bob Katter expressed similar views.

“If you want to destroy this nation and just have little populations living along the coastline, go right ahead and do this,” he said.

“You will be remembered as the greatest vandals in this nation’s history.”

One Nation leader Pauline Hanson received applause from the crowd after she announced she had successfully lobbied for a senate inquiry into the carbon capture project, with the report due by July.

While the Federal Court action could take time to play out, the state government is tipped to hand down its final decision on the project’s future in the next few weeks.

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