11 April 2024.

AgForce will today head to the Federal Court of Australia in Brisbane to challenge the Federal Government’s decision that the Great Artesian Basin is not a matter of national environmental significance.

On February 9 2022, the previous Federal Government determined that a proposal from global mining giant Glencore to pump industrial waste into Australia’s Great Artesian Basin was not of environmental concern.

AgForce President Georgie Somerset says AgForce is gravely concerned that the current federal government refuses to recall the project for consideration under relevant federal environmental law.

“We as farmers and agriculturalists know and understand the immense value of water. That’s why we can’t understand why anyone would propose to put that at risk - and our food security along with it,” Ms Somerset says.

“We have been inundated with concerns and anger from farmers and pastoralists. That’s why we’ve decided to underwrite and lead legal action in this way.

“We have filed papers in the Federal Court challenging the February 9 2022 Federal Environment Department decision that this proposal from Glencore to pump waste from a Coal Fired Power Station into the Great Artesian Basin was not captured by the Matter of National Environmental Significance (MNES) provisions of the EPBC Act.”

AgForce is Queensland’s peak representative body for farmers. CEO Michael Guerin says testing this decision in court is an unprecedented move for AgForce, but the agricultural community was so concerned about Glencore’s proposal they were left with no other choice.

“AgForce is leading a campaign that should never have been required to protect the Great Artesian Basin, an underground water resource that lies beneath around 30% of Australia’s land mass,” Mr Guerin says.

“A water resource relied upon by hundreds of communities and ecosystems across inland Australia.

“The Glencore proposal is an integral part of their ongoing coal mining activity and coal mining generally. Their proposal could cause substantial and irreversible impacts on a significant global water resource iconic to Australia.”

He says letting this proposal through would be tantamount to the Australian government `thumbing it’s nose’ at several United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, such as Zero Hunger, Clean Water and Sanitation and Sustainable Communities.

 “It’s absurd that such a ridiculous proposal could proceed this far,” he says.

"The Great Barrier Reef, Great Dividing Range and Great Artesian Basin are all iconic natural Australian monuments, like ANZAC Day we humbly stand in their shadow, allowing us hope that this madness will be stopped.

“AgForce will leave no stone unturned in seeking to quash the Glencore proposal and change policy - particularly at the federal level - to ensure the Great Artesian Basin is never again put at risk by an offshore mining giant.”    

National Farmers’ Federation Chief Executive Office Tony Mahar is in Brisbane today to stand side-by-side with AgForce to fight this terrible proposal.

“Water underpins our food security, our livelihoods and our environment, there’s just too much at stake to risk this valuable resource for the sake of what’s basically a science experiment,” Mr Mahar said.

“This is unequivocally a bad idea and we hope this issue can be resolved quickly for the benefit of the producers and communities who depend on the GAB.”

Queensland Farmers’ Federation Chief Executive Officer, Jo Sheppard agrees.

“The GAB is one of the largest underground freshwater resources in the world. It generates approximately $13 billion in value to the national economy every year and is a vital resource for 180,000 people, 7,600 businesses and 120 towns. This natural resource is not only heavily relied upon by agriculture but is also the lifeblood of multiple industries and rural communities. The biodiversity supported by the GAB is incredible and the environmental value of this natural asset immeasurable.” Queensland Farmers Federation CEO Jo Sheppard said.

“In 30 years of industry development and advocacy work, I have never seen community and industry so unified and come together like they have on this issue. The concern and opposition is overwhelming. The absence of state and federal policy on this matter is appalling and both levels of government need to respond to the unified concerns of community and industry to act immediately to ensure the GAB is protected not only from this CCS proposal but also from CCS bids in the future.”

“The value of the GAB to communities, agriculture, small businesses, tourism, wildlife and the environment is immeasurable and undeniable. We have a duty of care to protect the Great Artesian Basin for generations to come” Jo Sheppard concluded.

For media comments contact: 

AgForce CEO – Michael Guerin 0488 002 092

Press conference details:

Time: The court appearance is at 9.30 AM, followed by the press conference at approximately 10am.

Location: Outside the court buildings at the corner of North Quay and Tank St, Brisbane, immediately following the court appearance.

Michael Guerin, CEO AgForce will be joined by Mr Colin Boyce, MP; Hon Bob Katter, MP; Mr Robbie Katter, MP; Tony Mahar, CEO NFF Farmers Federation and Jo Sheppard, CEO Queensland Farmers Federation.