It’s pretty clear now that Richmond Valley Council’s in bed with the Coal Seam Gas Industry.
The picture in the local paper of the General Manager looking all festive and jolly with the Christmas Tree provided by Metgasco, the unannounced “Positioning Statement” on Coal Seam Gas introduced by the mayor in the middle of the December Council Meeting at Evans Head, and the RDA Meeting in April 2010 at the Casino RSM where CSG development was pushed by Council to an invited audience out of the public view, are pretty good indications that Council and the industry are more than passing acquaintances.
Note loading of the question: “If [emphasis VWD]the Coal Seam Gas industry resulted in – increased employment, economic value for the region, being appropriately regulated and proven to be environmentally safe, how supportive would you be………?
You are being asked to answer a question about a hypothetical situation or scenario which has yet to be proven. Lots of people will say ‘yeah, I would support CSG IF all these things were true’ but the problem is that the three qualifiers at the beginning of the question have yet to be proven and may disappear when a report is prepared for the community about coal seam gas.
If 75% say “yes”, it’s easy enough to say ‘75% of people support coal seam gas’ and leave out the qualifiers so the community including politicians and decision-makers outside council are left with the view there’s unqualified support for coal seam gas in Richmond Valley when in fact 75% have only said “yes” to a qualified scenario, a hypothetical situation which has yet to be proven.
Loaded Questions Steer People Away From Looking at Other Aspects of the Issue
Loaded questions also tends to steer people away from thinking about other aspects of CSG, for example the impact it may have on climate change. CSG is a fossil fuel which creates greenhouse gases, a good moral reason to leave it in the ground. Questions are often loaded to achieve a particular ‘desired’ outcome.
Time to Ask a Simple Question
VWD takes the view that Council needs to put a new question about CSG to the community which is not biased or loaded or hypothetical and which reflects the real world here and now. It needs to ask the simple question: Are you favour of CSG mining in Richmond Valley “Yes” or “No”? And then ask why they have that view. No qualifiers. No “IF”.
Criticism Will Continue If Loaded Question Remains
As long as the question remains in its current form Council cannot escape criticism. The question is hypothetical. Given that’s so, Council needs to wait for the evidence that all three qualifiers are amply supported with hard evidence before it concludes the community supports CSG should a majority say “yes” to the question in its current form.
Until that happens a majority “yes” answer does not give permission for council to push on with a CSG agenda. And by the way what do “appropriately regulated “and “proven to be environmentally safe” actually mean? Depends on who’s making up the definitions. And we all know that definitions can be engineered to suit the designer, don’t we!
Council has done an analysis of the telephone survey
Here is the analysis of the data for the 400 who answered the CSG questions from Richmond Valley Council (pages 60 and 61 of the report):