We are all mad...
Cuts aim to put mining critics out of business
Richard Ackland Published: January 11, 2013 - 10:12AM
It could not be more Orwellian. Barry O'Farrell's government has triumphed in reducing funding for legal aid, community legal centres and the Environmental Defenders Office.
Miraculously it has badged this initiative as ''greater access to justice for the disadvantaged''.
Behind it all is a carefully concocted scheme to get rid of legal challenges to ministerial decisions approving new mining ventures, in particular coal mines and coal-seam gas projects.
Letters unearthed under public access to government information legislation show the extent of the orchestration.
In March last year the Australian Coal Association wrote to the NSW Premier complaining that the Environmental Defenders Office was running ''merits appeals'' in the Land and Environment Court against decisions by the minister or his delegate.
Review was sought in relation to Gloucester Coal's Duralie mine, Xtrata's Ulan coal mine and Coal & Allied's Warkworth mine.
''It seems perverse in the extreme that the EDO is using public funds to challenge the merits of decisions of a democratically elected minister,'' Nikki Williams, CEO of the Coal Association told the Premier.
Williams went further. To the coal industry's consternation, the democratically elected minister's decisions were ''being replaced by decisions made by unelected members of the Land and Environment Court''.
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