The Bentley Blockade, a New Eureka Stockade Postponed?

bentley camp

The Bentley Blockade ……photo credit … Gas Free Northern Rivers.

By Des Pensable © 2014.

What didn’t rate much news this week owing to the Abbot government’s horror budget was that there was a build up to a major event that had all the hallmarks of getting into the future history books. An event likened to the Eureka stockade one and a half centuries ago when gold miners bullied by police, unfair government regulations and taxes, rebelled against the government.

At the Eureka stockade the rebels lost the fight and 22 were killed but they won the battle forcing the government to back down, change the unfair laws and listen to the people. It has been considered the birthplace of Australian democracy.

This week the NSW government stated that it was going to send an army of several hundred police to confront a group of several thousand non-violent protestors set up in a camp called “Liberty” on private property at Bentley, a rural area located about 19km west of Lismore in NSW.

The protestors are farmers, businessmen, parents with their kids and grandparents, most of whom have never protested before. They have been blockading a gas drilling rig owned by a gas mining company called Metgasco from entering the area for months and the government had decided this week to get tough.

The story started a couple of years ago when a property owner at Bentley decided to allow Metgasco to drill a test well using the process called Fracking for unconventional gas (coal seam gas) that is thought to be present a couple of kilometres below the ground there.

The problem is that the company planned not one but hundreds of gas wells all over the valley if the test well proved successful. The complication is that the law in NSW allows the company to drill as many wells as it wants on any farmer’s property WITHOUT the farmer’s permission.

In short, all the farmers in the valley and the people in whole region became worried that their health would be compromised and their backyard would end up like the devastation in Tara, Queensland caused by Fracking where the land has become an unhealthy agricultural industrial wasteland with hundreds of wells interconnected by a massive grid of roads and pipelines that looks from the air like the cover picture of a science fiction dystopian horror story.

Their fears were increased by a mountain of reports from overseas of reduced land values, industrial accidents, mismanagement, land and ground water contamination with toxic and cancer causing chemicals, radioactivity and even earth quakes. There were also hints of government corruption which has surrounded the unconventional gas mining industry both here and overseas.

The farmers complained to their local and then their state government representatives to no avail. They were just fobbed off. There is lots of money to be made by gas mining and companies like Metgasco are generous when it comes to political election fund donations. It appeared that they were to be sacrificed to the god Greed for the sake of what capitalism calls progress but others term profit before people or more simply rape and pillage of the land.

However, the farmers didn’t just lie down and take it stoically they decided to fight back. They formed a community based action group called Gasfield Free Northern Rivers with a range of environmental groups including the popular Lock the Gate Alliance, all fighting for the same thing. To stop unconventional gas mining such as coal seam gas mining in NSW and hopefully the rest of Australia as well. This would not be unusual as it has been banned in more than a dozen countries overseas.

Now the question comes to mind. If fracking is dangerous why are they doing it all over the USA. Well the clue might come from the fact that to allow it to happen in the USA they exempted the industry from having to comply with all the clean air and water environmental legislation as the corporations stated that it was harmless.

Any person attempting a little critical thinking would have to say if it was harmless then there would be no reason to exempt it from the regulations. In fact it has turned out to be quite dangerous especially to the people living in close proximity to gas wells. Aside from localised land pollution and more extensive underground water pollution, reports of adverse health effects have become quite common. This Study in the USA illustrates the problems quite well.

The Medical Journal of Australia recently published a report on the industry stating that there were health problems and suggested that much more research is needed but both the government and industry seem reluctant to invest in research that might counteract the corporate claims of safety.

A deeper question might be to ask why we need to frack for unconventional gas in NSW at all. There are several answers to this question.

Firstly, the world is either past or approaching peak oil depending on who you talk to. That means we are likely to run short if the world economy keeps growing, so the energy companies are turning to using more gas and coal rather than consider renewables which are less profitable.

Secondly, the gas companies have suggested that we need to mine the gas in NSW as our supplies are dependent upon sources from other states and we need local supplies to keep prices down.

The first part is true. NSW gets much of its gas from the Great Australian Bight but there are enough supplies there for the next hundred years so there is no shortage. The second statement is false.

The gas companies want to mine the NSW gas not for the local market but to supply the Chinese market through a pipeline being built to join the Queensland gas pipelines. The gas companies want Aussies to pay world parity prices for OUR gas. This will mean price hikes of up to 300% whether we frack for unconventional gas or not.

It should be noted that most other nations that export gas reserve a portion of their gas which is sold to their local markets at a cheaper rate. The local gas companies have called for a domestic gas reservation scheme but as yet the Australian government has ruled that out for our local market. Why? – I guess they will lose tax revenue.

So what happened at the Bentley blockade? Well the NSW government was going to send up hundreds of police to disrupt, fine and potentially gaol many of the protestors but at the last minute backed down, it suspended the company’s permit to drill and decided to refer Metgasco to the Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC).

It appears that the company is partly owned by the Obeid family currently under scrutiny by the ICAC for a web of corruption involving both Liberal and Labor politicians from Victoria to Queensland.

The problem for the Bentley blockade people is of course the company’s permit to drill is only suspended not cancelled. So depending on what happens at the ICAC inquiry we may still have the Eureka confrontation yet a few months from now. jubilant peopel at Bentley blockade

Jubilant protestors at Bentley blockage …photo credit…. Gas Free Northern Rivers

A curious note – The whole Eureka saga was triggered by a publican by the name of James Bentley who was involved in a mob that beat a miner to death. A lot of the miner’s friends were unhappy and burnt Bentley’s pub down and (perhaps) the lack of beer triggered the whole rebellion.

If you’re interested in further articles about Coal Seam Gas mining and Bentley by Des Pensable see below.

  1. Police Line Dance Challenge at Bentley (satire)
  2. Dodgy Dick the Fracking Engineer (a message from Tara).
  3. What would YOU say? (questions that need an answer).

An Adventure in WANDO land


This Easter my partner Jo and I decided to travel to Camp Wando, an environmental training and protest action camp set up on a farmer’s property mid-way between Boggabri and Narrabri in central western NSW. We were keen to show support to a consortium of local farmers and green groups including Green Peace that were trying to save the Leard State Forrest from destruction by a rapacious mining company called Whitehaven. The company is controlled by ex-politicians and their bankster partners who wish to destroy a rare type of forest to create a massive coal mine that will ruin local farmlands and only add to the world’s global warming problem in an adverse way.

We had intended to arrive at the camp before sundown on the Easter Friday but a massive traffic jam in Sydney caused by tens of thousands of people leaving the city for country destinations meant that the six hour trip actually ended up taking nearly ten hours with over three hours being spent in Sydney traffic. The delay meant that we would be trying to find the camp and set up in the dark. Consequently we decided to stay overnight in a motel at Gunnedah and travel to the camp the next morning. This turned out to be a wise decision.

The next day, we set off for the camp located about 24 km off the main road between Boggabri and Narrabri on Saturday morning travelling on mainly dirt roads through mixed cattle and cotton country. If you haven’t been there imagine a land scape that is extremely flat and very fertile. From the road you can see farmland stretching off kilometres in all directions with an occasional small hillock to add variety.

The paddocks containing cotton were often kilometres wide and much of the cotton appeared ready for harvesting. There was no army of cotton pickers. It’s all done by a giant harvesting machine that cuts the cotton plants off at their base, somehow separates the cotton balls from the rest of the plant and outputs a giant roll of raw cotton that appeared to be about 3 m tall and 5 metres wide covered in yellow plastic.

There was plenty of green grass and good fodder to be seen along the road and in the paddocks for the properties running cattle as they had had some good rain a few weeks earlier. It was on the dirt road beside a paddock littered with young bullocks getting fattened up for market a few kilometres from Camp Wando that we met the first of the police. They had been turned out in large numbers to stop any protests.

For no reason at all we were pulled over asked who we were and why we were there. We had our licenses and car registration checked. They didn’t search our car although we found out later that they did search other people’s cars. They were courteous and not aggressive. Just doing their job! they said. We told the sergeant that we were on our way to Camp Wando and could he direct us. He couldn’t he said. He was up from Sydney and they were trying to find it themselves. Fortunately we had a map and so we continued on and they followed us at a distance until we arrived at the camp.

I must admit I felt a little sorry for these city cops. They must have drawn the short straw to get sent out to the bush to sit around for hours at a road block in the hot sun and cold nights trying to stop a group of nonviolent protesters from exerting their democratic rights to protest the environmental destruction of our national heritage by an immoral gang of looters and polluters rather than going to the Easter Show in Sydney and having a great time.

We arrived a little before mid-day and were welcomed by a friendly group of people from the camp who had us fill in a registration sheet that included questions about what skills we might be able to contribute. We were then given a tour and advised about the camp rules which were pretty simple logical and designed for everyone’s mutual benefit and wellbeing. There was a voluntary roster of camp jobs and everyone had communal meals around a camp fire area adjacent to the kitchen. There was a strict no drugs policy although beer and wine in moderation at meal times was considered acceptable.

The camp was set on a roughly rectangular block of perhaps five hectares of private property owned by one of the farmers and located next to his dwelling. Most of the area was covered in lush green grass owing to the recent rain and there were a few native trees around his home and along the fence line. There were a couple of farm sheds for use by the visitors. One was used as a communal kitchen and another as a workshop and communal meeting area. There was a small toilet block and some cold bore-water showers. The rest of the area was open space that would accommodate tents for perhaps a couple of hundred people although there were only about fifty people there when we arrived.

After setting up our tent we were invited to our first communal lunch around a campfire with about 40 others. The volunteer cooks made vegan, vegetarian and meat oriented dishes so there was plenty for all tastes. There was also plenty of fruit and of course a variety of different teas and coffees and beautifully cool refreshing bore water. The community meals were funded by a daily donation of $10 per person.

The people present were all ages from young children six years old to grey haired grandparents in their sixties, from all walks of life and from the towns, the cities and the country side. Many said they had never participated in any protest actions but were now concerned enough about global warming and the irresponsible attitude of the federal and state governments in promoting destruction of our forests to build more coal and CSG mines. They were deeply concerned that our governments were preferring corporate profit over the wellbeing of ordinary Aussies.

After lunch we got stuck into workshops on a variety of subjects including the environmental and economic arguments for protesting about the destruction of the Leard State forest. There were role playing exercises in nonviolent protesting, using non aggressive body language, defusing aggressive confrontations, and the like as well as first aid, working as a part of a team, the various roles of people in a protest. These workshops were quite fun and everyone seemed to be enjoying them.

Dinner that evening was a very cordial social affair as everybody had had a chance to meet and interact with many of the others there. It was lovely to see young and old freely conversing and all of similar mind about the threat to environment of Global Warming and need to take action to convince the government that they were elected for the benefit of the people of this land NOT for the foreign companies keen to loot and pollute this land leaving us with a huge clean-up bill for minimal national gain.

After a cool night, the next day was loaded with more workshops interspersed with sessions of play acting and theatre sports to provide some entertainment. A lot of time was spent on discussing legal matters; what actions people could get arrested for; what happened when people were arrested by police; the responsibilities of the police; the bail process and how the courts worked. Here people were advised to think carefully before they decided to get arrested as there could be repercussions in the workplace; potential restrictions on travel and social stigma. Curiously, many said getting arrested was a badge of honor. A demonstration of their deep passion and committment to this country.

The meals were great and it was wonderful to see everyone keen to get on the work roster with no complaints about anything except of course our federal government breaking just about all of their election promises and treating the Australian population with utter contempt.

Sunday evening was special as about twenty members of the Leard family who have been farming in the district for five generations and are currently threatened by the Whitehaven coal mine came visiting the camp bringing Easter eggs and drinks for all the camp as a gesture of support and good will. They stayed for dinner, enthusiastically praised and thanked all the people in the camp for coming and gave first -hand accounts of the problems caused by the mine and the police sent to stop protests.

One of the main problems seemed to be that city police are posted to the area and they have been setting up road blocks and stopping people from attending to their normal businesses. They have no idea who is a local and who is not. As a result there have been accounts of police refusing to allow farmers to travel to their own farms even when they had identification on them. One woman was blocked from going to church. This harassment of innocent farmers is not what the locals want or expect from the police. They blame Whitehaven and the police for the problem not the protesters.

On Sunday night everyone went to bed early as a protest action was being arranged for the Monday morning. Jo and I organised the manufacture of a large number of rabbit ears for the protesters to wear. It would give everybody a chuckle and look good in any media release photos. Unfortunately the action was thwarted by the police at a road block on the way where they searched the cars and seized all of our banners arguing that they were hazardous to mining machinery and refusing to even give receipts for the banners as required by law.

While no one was arrested nor should they have been for attempting to hold a peaceful nonviolent protest action the police were heavy handed in confiscating the banners. They made no friends by showing that they were happy to be the unpaid servants of the looters and polluters of our land and the greasy politicians who seem to be continually found to be guilty of corruption charges within the ICAC court and more often than not for corruption involving mining leases and practises. While people at the camp were a little disappointed they were by no means dispirited and planned further actions later in the week and got busy producing more banners.

Jo and I were a little disappointed at not being able to participate in a good protest as we had to return to Sydney on Tuesday for business reasons but the experience was wonderful. We met lots of lovely people who were passionate about protecting this country from the barbarians we call a government and we made more new friends whom I’m sure we’ll see in the near future.

The only sad thing that Jo and I heard came from one of the local farmers. He said “I fought for this country in the Second World War. I never thought I would have to fight to save it from our own government.” Neither did we mate!

If you wish to learn more about camp Wando, meet wonderful people of all ages from all walks of life who are concerned about Global Warming and wish to participate in non-violent peaceful protest actions to persuade our government to take action then check out the following links.

Postscript . When we returned home we found out that a protest action had been carried out by one of our new friends John Ross, a businessman from the north coast who locked himself onto a gate stopping a few coal trucks before police came and removed him. See below. Great work John.


The Transpacific Partnership (TPP) A Template for World Corporate Rule.

corporate rule

Julian Assange of WikiLeaks said. “If instituted, the TPP’s IP regime would trample over individual rights and free expression, as well as ride roughshod over the intellectual and creative commons.” And “If you read, write, publish, think, listen, dance, sing or invent; if you farm or consume food; if you’re ill now or might one day be ill, the TPP has you in its crosshairs.”

Part 1 Control of World Intellectual Property (IP)

Des Pensable (copyright) 2014.

Imagine what might happen if a group of the most powerful multinational corporations on the planet came up with a wish list of changes to government laws and rules that would allow for “free trade” between countries with little or no regulations. They might state that it would create jobs and everyone would benefit.

In a perfect world this might be true. However, there is no such thing as a perfect world run by people whose motto is “greed is good”. It is much more likely that they would come up with a list of changes in the laws of the countries that would maximize their profits and minimize their costs without consideration of the costs to workers and society in general.

They would state that to maximize profits they need lower company taxes and have low or no tax zones and generous government subsidies (corporate welfare). They might want the government to reduce their labor costs by scrapping minimum wages laws, anti-pollution and environmental protection laws and any regulations that limit imports or flow of money into or out of a country.

They might ask for severe laws leading to criminal penalties for anyone perceived to have acted in any way that might jeopardise their maximum profit. They might even suggest that any disputes that they have with a government be dealt with outside the country. This way they could operate in a country and be above the law of that country.

Imagine if all their wishes were granted at the same time by an international agreement crafted in secret. The companies would win big time and the people would lose out on almost every aspect of their lives. Job losses, more work for less money, harsher working conditions, poorer health, less leisure. The distribution of the country’s wealth would be tilted even more to the rich at the cost of the poor. The lucky country would become the unlucky country ruined by corporate greed.

This all sounds like the basis of a good dystopian novel except that it’s REALLY happening right now. It’s called the Transpacific Partnership or TPP. It’s supposed to be a ‘free trade’ agreement designed for 12 countries around the Pacific Ocean including Australia and New Zealand but it’s not about ‘free trade’ at all, it’s about restrictive trade and control of the world’s Intellectual Property (IP) and much more. It will change the way we live. It will cost every one of us in Australia a lot of money for very little benefit for decades to come. We should be concerned.

In a study on the “Economic Gains and Costs of the TPP” in New Zealand, the study was scathing about the modelling methods used by the US company employed by the NZ government to justify joining the TPP… “the TPP could sharply increase income and wealth inequality. A significant part of the rise in inequality over the last three decades has been widely attributed to globalization and the TPP can be expected to exacerbate this.”

There is also a similar trade agreement being discussed for most of Europe called the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP).

Joseph Stiglitz (Nobel Prize winner, former World Bank chief economist) has stated

“[T]he negotiations to create a free-trade area between the US and Europe, and another between the US and much of the Pacific (except for China), are not about establishing a true free-trade system. Instead, the goal is a managed trade regime managed, that is, to serve the special interests [the multinational companies] that have long dominated trade policy in the West.”

“The likelihood that what emerges from the coming talks will serve ordinary Americans’ interests is low; the outlook for ordinary citizens in other countries is even bleaker.”

The TPP regulations cover not just trade but almost every aspect of our lives. Only 3 chapters of 29 are about trade, the rest cover everything from the use of the Internet, to labor and working conditions, food and agriculture, medicine and drugs, environment and pollution to flow of money in and out of countries and it’s been completely done in secret. Hundreds of advisers from the multinationals are involved but no consumer organisations and not even our own parliamentarians in Australia are privy to its contents.

If both the TPP and the TTIP are signed and ratified, without the people being a part of the process then the multinational companies will have a template to rule the world. It’s been called a “corporate coup in disguise” in the USA and strongly criticized in the UK and other countries. The multinationals have much to gain, and similarly you and I in Australia have much to lose.

These so called “Free Trade“ agreements will cause a dramatic reduction in democracy around the world as no one will be able to instruct their own governments to make laws to protect them from corruption, pollution, environmental destruction and the often antisocial and malevolent actions of some of the multinational corporations. We already know how hard it is to stop the big miners from polluting and destroying the environment in Australia without the TPP.

The Labor PartyGreens, The Australian Consumers Association (ACA), the Australian Fair Trade and Investment Network (AFTINET) encompassing dozens of consumer and human rights groups are alarmed and have been campaigning for release of the documents of the agreement so that the people of Australia can examine and judge the agreement BEFORE it is signed into law by our parliament. Dozens of eminent Australian lawyers have signed an open letter to the Prime Minister stating that the TPP will endanger Australia’s sovereignty.

This first article is on the Intellectual Property (IP) rights chapter leaked by Wikileaks and found to have unsettling consequences for you and me by many consumer and human rights organisations around the world .

Julian Assange of WikiLeaks said. “If instituted, the TPP’s IP regime would trample over individual rights and free expression, as well as ride roughshod over the intellectual and creative commons.” And “If you read, write, publish, think, listen, dance, sing or invent; if you farm or consume food; if you’re ill now or might one day be ill, the TPP has you in its crosshairs.”

The Electronic Frontiers Foundation (EFF) in the USA has examined the Wikileaks document on Intellectual Property and said “The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) is a secretive, multi-national trade agreement that threatens to extend restrictive intellectual property (IP) laws across the globe and rewrite international rules on its enforcement. The main problems are two-fold: (1) IP chapter: Leaked draft texts of the agreement show that the IP chapter would have extensive negative ramifications for users’ freedom of speech, right to privacy and due process, and hinder peoples’ abilities to innovate. (2) Lack of transparency: The entire process has shut out multi-stakeholder participation and is shrouded in secrecy.” “The TPP Will Rewrite Global Rules on Intellectual Property Enforcement” “All signatory countries will be required to conform their domestic laws and policies to the provisions of the Agreement.” “The leaked US IP chapter includes many detailed requirements that are more restrictive than current international standards, and would require significant changes to other countries’ copyright laws.” 

The Ramifications for Australia  Unfair restrictive laws with regard to the Internet, books, software, games, videos  and movies that will NOT benefit any Australian.

  1. Regulations and penalties to FORCE Internet service providers to police their Internet users connections and take down / block any sites that appear might be in breach of the US based copyright laws. It means Internet CENSORSHIP. It means that the Australian government will lose the rights to make laws regarding IP on the Internet. A similar rule to this was blocked by International protest last year.
  2. Treat temporary reproductions of copyrighted works without copyright holders’ authorization as copyright infringement.  You won’t be able to save ANYTHING shown on commercial radio, TV or the Internet to show other people or even comment about without being in breach of the law. This will drastically affect social media and Utube content.
  3. The TPP wants copyright terms to go well beyond the internationally agreed period in the 1994 Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS). This is NOT about fair compensation for the authors. It’s about big multimedia companies controlling art and literature and making profit out of it forever.
  4. Restrictions on Fair use of IP for example in reviews and research. This will affect libraries, schools, universities, social media and anyone wishing to do research or study.
  5. Digital Locks. The TPP calls for more extensive use of digital locks on media content. This will override Australia’s  2007 TPM regime exclusions for region-coding on movies on DVDs, videogames, and players, and for embedded software in devices that restrict access to goods and services for the device. In the US, business competitors have used digital locks to try to block printer cartridge refill services, competing garage door openers, and to lock mobile phones to particular network providers.
  6. Ban parallel importation of genuine goods acquired from other countries without the authorization of copyright owners. This will allow local branches of overseas companies to fix prices to limit competition and it will stop people from buying cheaper versions of the same software or media from overseas suppliers. Definitely NOT free trade.
  7. Adopt criminal sanctions for copyright infringement that is done without a commercial motivation. In short it means MASSIVE PENALTIES perhaps thousands of dollars and gaol sentences for any person caught copying a single song, video, movie or anything under copyright even for use within the same household. We will all be criminals.

Increased Cost of Medicine and Drugs.

Oxfam says that the “US [TPP] proposals will have dire health consequences across Asia and Latin America. Medicine Sans Frontiers (MSF), says this about the TPP effect on public health in Australia.

  1. “US proposals would require the further patenting of modifications of old medicines, even in the absence of therapeutic benefits. They would also require patenting of surgical, therapeutic and diagnostic methods which could increase medical liability and the cost of medical practice and thus reduce access to medical procedures.”
  2. “It would prohibit pre-grant opposition to patents. This would make it much more difficult and costly for local organisations to challenge patents and drugs protected by patents even if the patents were invalid.”
  3. “It would also extend patents past the current 20-year norm and prohibit national drug regulatory authorities from approving generic medicine until patents have expired.”
  4. “Finally it would prevent drug safety regulators from using existing clinical data to give market approval to generic or biosimilar drugs. These are all great wins for big pharmaceutical companies. But they come at the cost of public health.”

In summary, all medicine and drugs in Australia and most other countries will cost more. This will inevitably force the government to make changes to Medicare either increasing the levy or reducing the benefits or both.

The real problem is that the current Australian government wants to sign the TPP with undue haste not caring to either tell the public about its contents or even debating its good and bad points in parliament. Fortunately the Greens and Labor successfully joined together to force the release of the text before it is approved by parliament.

However, political opinions vary from day to day. We could literally go from a democracy to a corporate controlled state in the next few months without most of the people being aware. The only good thing is that it is a multilateral agreement and many of the countries involved are against many of the US based proposals consequently there is a large lack of consensus.

The TPP will also have massive negative effects on Australian human rights, agriculture, food supply and the environment in general. But more about these in part 2.

What can you do… find out more … see ACA and / or AFTINET web sites … tell your friends, family and neighbours … the TPP will affect EVERY Australian … most probably ADVERSELY.

Latest Update – Hundreds of Tech Companies Complain

Further reading.

TPP Part 2- Will Tony Abbot Use the ISDS in the TPP to Sell Our Souls to the DEVIL?

TPP Part 3 – The Hidden Agenda of the TPP- to Block Global Warming Mitigation


Welcome to the Indespensable Blog

des pensable

Hi All,

I’ve been around a long time and over that period I’ve observed much about the world, the people and our society society. Nothing stays constant, everything changes. I’ve learnt that we often get windows of opportunity to do something positive and useful that occur only for a short time in our brief lives. Now is one such time for me.

In this blog I hope to make some useful comments about our world that may give some of you a little insight that may help you understand it from a different viewpoint. If that happens I will have succeeded.

The Indispensable Man

Sometime when you’re feeling important,
Sometime when your ego’s in bloom,
Sometimes when you take it for granted
You’re the best qualified in the room.

Sometimes when you feel that your going
Would leave an unfillable hole,
Just follow these simple instructions
And see how they humble your soul.

Take a bucket and fill it with water,
Put your hand in it up to your wrist,
Pull it out and the hole that’s remaining
Is a measure of how you’ll be missed.

You can splash all you wish when you enter,
You may stir up the water galore,
But stop, and you’ll find that in no time
It looks quiet the same as before.

The moral in this quaint example
Is do just the best that you can,
Be proud of yourself, but remember—
There’s no indispensable man.

Des Pensable, April, 2015