Shane Stone, head of the Coalitions’ Northern Australian advisory group, has suggested a controversial solution to overcome tensions between farmers and mining companies.
The group’s advice to the federal and state governments for the Northern Australian white paper suggests compensation through a revenue share system between mining companies, states and landowners.
Stone has likened the idea to the agreement with native title holders under the Aboriginal Land Rights Act. The goal is to achieve harmony that will benefit relationships and the land.
Fellow panel member, Ken Warriner, said mining companies need to be more aware of the damage they have caused to the land. He believes miners have received too much political support.
Warriner told The Guardian, “I’ve been dealing with them for the past 30 or 40 years and particularly in central Australia and south-west Queensland down in the Cooper basin … we eventually got deals out of them that were quite reasonable but by gee it took some years of discussing it and getting them to understand the traumas that they cause.
“Mining companies have got to realise that there is a lot of disturbance out there and the law does have it that you’ve got to compensate for that.”
An imbalance of power exists, with farmers and landowners feeling disempowered. There has been public debate on whether farmers should have the right to veto mining; however, there are issues of national uniformity.
Conflict between farmers and mining companies peaked with the death of George Bender, who committed suicide after a 10-year battle with mining companies.
Greens MLC Jeremy Buckingham passed a condolence motion for Bender through NSW parliament, following National and Labor party members seeking to remove a clause which gives farmers veto rights over mining companies.
However, Gary Gray, Labor’s resources spokesman, has advised against changes to resource rights where landowners own topsoil, and miners have rights to resources below.
National party MLC and upper house leader, Duncan Gay, has stated the NSW Coalition is yet to decide on a policy.
“That is a policy and political decision that is currently under way not only amongst the opposition but certainly amongst the government,” Gay said.