Controversial Sydney broadcaster Alan Jones has given Environment Minister Greg Hunt a spray live on air about the Shenhua Watermark coal mine.
Just one day after Mr Jones criticised the Abbott Government in a 30-minute tirade against the controversial mine, he accused Mr Hunt of failing to consider all issues before he approved the $1 billion project near Gunnedah, NSW.
“The government is in massive trouble here and the public have had a gutful,” Mr Jones said on 2GB Radio on Thursday.
Mr Hunt gave conditional approval to the Shenhua Watermark project in northern NSW last week, despite strong protests by farmers and local MP and Agriculture Minister Barnaby Joyce.
Mr Hunt said last week the project, by the Chinese state-owned firm, would have to comply with strict conditions to protect the water and black soil of the surrounding Liverpool plains near Tamworth which are among Australia’s best agricultural land.
Live on air Thursday morning, Mr Jones outlined a question by Mr Hunt to an independent scientific committee within a report on the project.
He agreed prior to the interview with the Environment Minister that it would be non-acrimonious.
“You asked if the independent scientific committee was satisfied that the proposed surface water and ground water monitoring programs are robust and any potential impact on water resources and water related assets will be detected,” Mr Jones said.
“The answer by the committee was ‘no’.
“The impact to ground water eco systems here remains an unassessed risk – how the hell are we meant to approve something with risk?
“Not all matters have been addressed at this stage, and you’ve given approval.”
Mr Hunt said the approval of the mine last week was “conditional” and not final.
“The presentation that this is on the back soil plain, we don’t get to choose where, but fortunately that is a myth.”
Mr Jones replied heatedly: “Greg, Greg, Greg, I have to interrupt you. Greg stop, that is not true.”
“The reason it is not on black soil plains – and you know this for a fact– the definition of flood plain was changed … to accommodate Shenhua and so this land is now regarded as ‘not flood plain’,” Mr Jones said.
“I’m sorry Greg, you are wrong, I know you went up there for five minutes before the election.”
Mr Hunt could not answer why the definition of a ‘food plain’ was changed.
He said before he gave the final approval, he would refer any unanswered questions to the relevant parties.
The NSW Government created and progressed this project under the former Labor Government, and NSW has total discretion on what happens to land and licensing conditions, Mr Jones said.
Mr Jones has been a vigorous critic of the mine project.
On Wednesday he blamed Mr Abbott, saying the government’s approval of the mine was “disgraceful”, “beyond belief” and tantamount to selling their soul to mining.
“The NSW government have the final say on all of this,” Mr Jones said on 2GB Radio.
“Quite frankly, Tony Abbott and (NSW Premier) Michael Baird are going to have to understand that governments rise and fall, sometimes, on a single issue. And the single issue, about selling this country out to foreign interests, no matter whose interests they are, is now emerging as a massive issue in this country.
“This isn’t over. It hasn’t even begun. And, frankly, any government that doesn’t see the stupidity of this doesn’t deserve to be in government.”
A poll conducted on Wednesday of more than 3,000 people on 2GB Radio’s website revealed 96 per cent did not support the mine.