Joyce urged to quit over mine dog­fight

Townsville Bulletin - - NEWS -

A G R I C U L T U R E Mi n i s t e r Barnaby Joyce is sidestep­ping his fed­eral col­leagues and lob­by­ing NSW Premier Mike Baird to stop the con­tro­ver­sial $ 1 bil­lion Shen­hua coal mine.

Mr Joyce was fac­ing pres­sure to re­sign yesterday amid a back­lash from farm­ers an­gry at his Gov­ern­ment’s de­ci­sion to grant the go- ahead for the mine near prime agri­cul­tural land in his NSW elec­torate.

A day af­ter declar­ing the “world had gone mad” over the de­ci­sion, the Na­tion­als deputy leader toned down his lan­guage, say­ing he was “bit­terly dis­ap­pointed”. But it was not the fi­nal step, he said.

“I’ll been con­tact­ing the Premier to­day, I have made sure ... I’ll do ev­ery­thing in my power to stop the mine,” he said in Mackay yesterday.

“It’s an ab­surd place for a mine.”

How­ever, the Prime Min­is­ter didn’t agree, say­ing it was pos­si­ble for high- qual­ity agri­cul­ture and min­ing to co­ex­ist.

“It’s a mine in the hill coun­try, it’s not a mine that is on prime agri­cul­tural land,” Tony Ab­bott said, while adding he un­der­stood lo­cals’ con­cerns.

Mr Ab­bott was left to hose down a cab­i­net rift over his Agri­cul­ture Min­is­ter’s com­ments. He ex­cused the out­burst as merely Mr Joyce wear­ing his lo­cal mem­ber hat and giv­ing voice to the many dis­ap­pointed con­stituents in his elec­torate.

“We’re all lo­cal mem­bers first,” Mr Ab­bott said.

For­mer in­de­pen­dent MP Tony Wind­sor said he would con­sider a tilt at win­ning his seat of New Eng­land back from Mr Joyce.

La­bor’s agri­cul­ture spokesman Joel Fitzgib­bon said Mr Joyce should re­con­sider his po­si­tion, ac­cus­ing him of de­lib­er­ately mis­lead­ing his elec­torate over the mine’s ap­proval.

The min­is­ter cre­ated the im­pres­sion the Gov­ern­ment had changed its mind on the pro­ject ear­lier this year.

“He’s in an un­ten­able sit­u­a­tion now,” Mr Fitzgib­bon told ABC ra­dio yesterday.

In­de­pen­dent sen­a­tor Jac­qui Lam­bie joined in the calls for Mr Joyce’s head, urg­ing him to quit the front­bench and re­turn to be­ing the “old ( blue) heeler” who crossed the Se­nate floor on con­tentious is­sues.

“Stop be­ing the Lib­er­als’ lap­dog, bring back the old Na­tion­als at­tack dog,” she said in an online video mes­sage.

The NSW Farm­ers As­so­ci­a­tion urged Mr Joyce to lobby fed­eral cab­i­net to stop the mine.

Its mem­bers were dev­as­tated by the lack of po­lit­i­cal will to pro­tect the area, pres­i­dent Fiona Sim­son said.

Mr Ab­bott told re­porters in Jan­uary 2010, when he was op­po­si­tion leader, that lo­cals “don’t want to de­stroy this agri­cul­tural bread bas­ket with min­ing”.

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