The Newman Government has misled the media and the public over its amendments to North Stradbroke Island sand mining legislation.
Numerous media reports asserting that sand mining has already been extended to 2035 are incorrect. Sand mining on Stradbroke has not been extended to 2035. Too much reliance has been placed on Newman Government misinformation about its amendments to the 2011 North Stradbroke Protection and Sustainability Act, passed by parliament last November. The misleading media reports have led to widespread misunderstandings. In the public interest, this requires correction.
The Newman amendments benefit sand miner Sibelco, the privately owned Belgian mining company. But an extension of mining at the Enterprise sand mine to 2035 (or 2027, as Sibelco previously sought) is not scheduled to occur until 2019. This is because relevant mining leases do not expire until December 31, 2019.
The Newman Government does not want the public to know the truth.
In a revised article titled Clive Palmer, Jeff Seeney and Campbell Newman’s Straddie donation, published by the online newspaper Independent Australia.net, highly respected barrister Stephen Keim SC recently agreed that Sibelco cannot apply to extend the time frame for sand mining until 2019. In Mr Keim’s words: “…The amendments to the legislation passed by the Newman government will allow sand mining to be extended until 2035, provided Sibelco applies for renewal in 2019.”
Parliament can repeal the Newman amendments at any time before 2019. That is likely to occur without a change of government, if the native title owners win their High Court action for a declaration that the Newman amendments are invalid under the Australian constitution.
Why does the Newman Government want to mislead the public into believing that sand mining has already been extended to 2035? To quell dissent from the many who want to see a Queensland icon protected. If people think the extension has already occurred, maybe they will think it’s a waste of time talking about repealing the Newman amendments.
Whatever the thinking, the reality is that even if the native title challenge to the validity of the amendments fails, if the LNP is voted out before 2019, the Newman amendments can be repealed by a future parliament. No compensation would be payable to Sibelco. Section 6 of the North Stradbroke Island Protection and Sustainability Act specifically rules out compensation.
This would not be an unjust result. Sibelco purchased the mine in 2009 knowing that a key mining lease had expired in 2007 and had not been renewed. It was also aware that under the state’s expired lease laws there were legal obstacles to renewal of expired North Stradbroke mining leases. It also knew that there was significant opposition from indigenous owners, environment groups and others.
The Fraser Island Inquiry in 1976 concluded that sand mining causes “major, permanent and irreversible environmental harm.” The federal government accepted the findings and ended sand mining on Fraser almost immediately. The Bjelkie-Petersen government’s request for a two-year transition was rejected.
Stradbroke’s future clearly depends upon its natural environment being protected. It is remarkable that Campbell Newman, with a straight face, can talk about a so called “transition” away from mining of 22 years!
The Sydney Morning Herald