New No Fibs citizen journalism project: The CSG social movement


By Margo Kingston

7 October 2013

I knew I wanted to do journalism differently after experiencing the disconnect between the reality on the ground and the closed world of insider political reporting while covering Pauline Hanson’s 1998 election campaign.

My idea was to live in the north western NSW town of Bourke to report rural and Aboriginal issues outside the bubble, compare the realities with the big picture policy and politics, and question the powerful armed with that information.

Instead the Sydney Morning Herald gave me Webdiary, and from 2000 to 2005 I collaborated with readers to report, explain and investigate federal politics.

This year I returned to my vocation, practicing Twitter-based journalism in collaboration with interested Tweeps and editing No Fibs.

Thanks to a small grant from Macquarie University to research citizen journalism, my co-publisher and site manager Tony Yegles and I were able to work full-time until election day. My main experiment was citizen journalist seat reports, whereby volunteers reported democracy’s dance in the seats where they lived. Rather than being on the ground myself, several interested Australians – professional and amateur journos as it turned out – did that job under a simple template. They used their real names, pledged to abide by the Media Alliance Code of Ethics and promised to read the work of other volunteers. Tony, sub-editor Julie Lambert and I edited and published their work, and a Facebook group allowed all of us to discuss issues and swap experiences.

Indi proved the highlight of the experiment. Thanks to the suggestion of a friend, No Fibs began reporting Indi before there was national interest, and two citizen journalists – Wayne Jansson and Tom Anderson – led the most comprehensive national coverage of what became the election’s most inspirational story.

It is a story of how a few people built a genuine intergenerational community movement with an agreed vision for Indi, an outstanding example of  participatory democracy attracting left, centre and right wing supporters to elect an independent MP truly representing the people of Indi.

As a true believer in the importance of journalism to a vibrant democracy and someone who would like to play her part in imagining a secure future for my craft at a time of existential crisis, I was proud of No Fibs‘ pro-am collaboration in reporting the Indi democracy experiment.

I’ve been chilling out and rebalancing since the election – and wondering whether No Fibs had a future and what it might be. My main task now is to write a detailed report on the citizen journalism experiment for Macquarie University.

Last week, another friend took me to a conference on how people might respond to what many see as a desperate moment for the environment, and therefore humanity. I was introduced to the Lock the Gate social movement, and was struck by how much it had in common with the Voice for Indi movement.

Somehow, some way, a few people have built linked grassroots social movements in regions across Queensland, NSW and Victoria which have straddled left and right and united communities. Lock the Gate has said no to CSG miners entering properties to mine for coal seam gas, including blockades by citizens who have never before engaged in civil disobedience.

In the process, State Governments have been forced to acknowledge that there really are serious risks from such mining, and to replace an open slather mining regime with a few checks and balances.

The CSG movement has been successful so far in preventing CSG mining in NSW. The Northern Rivers region has been the major battleground – the community successfully blockaded Metgasco, causing it to withdraw. CSG was also front and centre in the federal election campaign for the seat of Page, with both the sitting Labor MP Janelle Saffin and her successful National Party Challenger Kevin Hogan pledging strong, committed opposition to CSG mining in the region.

But on 27 September, the new industry minister Ian Macfarlane blew time on, promising to take over the issue from the States and back CSG miners against affected communities. He labelled some protesters ‘anarchists’.

Almost immediately Metgasco announced in would resume operations early next year, citing “… political developments, particularly since the September federal election”.

Mr Hogan is now in an excruciating position. He has rejected Mr Macfarlane’s claims of anarchism, saying members of the movement were “fathers, mothers, professionals, farmers and senior citizens who have unanswered questions about the industry and are therefore uncomfortable about it developing here at present”.

At the same time, the new federal government has reversed Labor’s decision not to accept a proposed clause in an international agreement which would allow companies to sue governments in an international tribunal for decisions which adversely affect them.

This decision is the strongest indicator to date that the Abbott government is indeed ‘open for business’, to the extent of overriding not only affected communities, but the Australian legal system, to further mining and big business interests. Under a similar international agreement to which Australia is not a party, a mining company has sued Canada for $250 million over Quebec’s moratorium on CSG fracking while it studies the environmental risks.

The CSG saga is a very big story about who we are, our fundamental values, and how we are governed and for whom, and it has just begun. So I can’t resist another citizen journalism experiment.

Stephanie Dale is a professional journalist who volunteered to cover the seat of Forde for No Fibs. She did a brilliant job, and I decided to personally fund her for a month to edit and co-ordinate No Fibs citizen journalist coverage of the Lock the Gate movement.

We’re looking for volunteers to report what is happening on CSG where they live. We’d also like pieces on how the movement got legs, and from people who’ve joined up on why they did and how they’ve found the experience, and…

It’s a see-what-happens thing. I’ve got a feeling that there’s a yearning by many to break down the left-right divides that enslave our political debate, and to find ways to unlock our democracy. Like the Voice for Indi, the Lock the Gate movement may show us ways to work out what our values and vision are and how to empower we, the people, in our democracy.

If you would like to participate, please contact Stephanie at @StephanieDale22. Tony will continue to manage the site and I will oversee Stephanie’s coverage as a hobby. If it’s got legs, we’ll work out a way to keep it going.

Read More:
Margo’s columns
Margo’s post-election musings on LNL









































































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  1. Angela Froud says

    I would like to participate in the CSG project. I live at Doubtful Creek in Northern NSW . I have been active in the Lock the Gate movement for 3 years. We live close to the recent Metgasco well drilled in February. There are many exploration wells in my area. I am a high school teacher who is passionate about working with Aboriginal students. I have a casual position with Macquarie University Science faculty as a research assistant.

  2. Kim Wright says

    Breath of bloody good fresh air Margo. Thank you

  3. Thankfully SA has geo-thermal and is in no hurry to get any CSG going, I think this stuff and the mining practice to get it is going to be cataclysmic for the planet in about 5 years time, the US already has a dearth of clean water and soil, their mining and massive farming practices are now abutting each other with terrible consequences with poison food and milk,

    The humans on the planet never learn anything.

    You must be pretty pissed off at the demise of Fairfax though when they have to stoop to clowns like Vanstone for columns peddling drivel.

  4. Buddy Rojek, CPA says

    Thanks to your journalist I could get my story out. News Ltd’s Geelong Advertiser ran a tabloid style article that ruined my professional career after the election. I thank your article:

    For providing my side of the story. Clive Palmer did not have the decency to call me to discuss my disendorsement, instead using middle men and women to relay information for him. If he had the guts or time to speak to me to get my sisde of the story hec ould be considered measured in his decisions. If he can make cold calculating decisions like this, when he knows a disendorsement is quite embarrassing to the candidate, then God help us if he is Prime Minister. ANd to think I actually believed in this man and party. I ruined my career, trying to get volunteers to help, because the Member list he gave me, was rubbish.. No one on the Palmer United member list for Corangamite was interested in assisting me. And I ploughed so much money into the campaign based on the promise of receiving $10,000 in election aid. What a bunch of callous Party “faceless men” they are.

  5. Jill storch says

    Be afraid of these bast….ds..very afraid…the next 3 years will be to line the pockets of the few by the destruction of the real Aussie people/worker/battler….Abbott is no friend of the masses! Just going back to the bunker to plan my survival strategy…Plan A in the planning stage….cheers…

  6. Bravo Margo and thank you. Your articles and those of your colleagues were bright points in a tiresome, frustrating campaign of misinformation and mainstream media ineptitude.

    Here’s hoping citizen journalism can help sway the case for the people and against a government, seemingly hell-bent on selling-off our assets the multinationals.

    It’s time we realised that as a group we are more powerful that any government of business. United we stand.

  7. Margo,

    Great to see a site that allows for the freedom of journalism, and one that will obviously be open to present both sides of the political debate. Personally I find it interesting that the intent of the site is to present “No Fib’s” but what if the information that you have relied on in forming an opinion on the matter is based on a lie?

    What if the anti-CSG movement has managed to mislead the public for so long that the readers and the citizen journalist are convinced that they are telling the truth, but in actual fact, perpetuating untruths used in a continuing campaign against the CSG industry.

    While I don’t think that you have intentionally mislead the readers (i.e. fibbed) in the blog, there are, I feel, misleading comments that, much like those used by the anti-CSG campaigners, have the very real potential of guiding opposition to the CSG industry.

    For example – you make the point that “In the process, State Governments have been forced to acknowledge that there really are serious risks from such mining, and to replace an open slather mining regime with a few checks and balances.” . Your use of the hyperlink is interesting, as the link point to the fact that the NSW government is attempting to impose some of the toughest and stringent regulations applied to any industry in Australia.

    The hyperlink attached to the words “a few checks and balances” in the article points to the website The Conversation, and the article “NSW farms safe under tough new coal seam gas rules” (04th October 2013) in with the article states:

    “New South Wales has introduced new rules for coal seam gas, meaning the state now has some of the strongest regulation in the country. The rules set aside 2.8 million hectares of important agricultural land – including vineyards and equine properties – that must be rigorously investigated before coal seam gas (CSG) projects can proceed.”

    Further, this article points to The Australian newspaper article: Wineries and farms put off limits from CSG in NSW (03rd October 2013) entitled Wineries and farms put off limits from CSG in NSW”

    “THE NSW government has moved to protect another one million hectares of prime agricultural land and declared hundreds of horse studs and vineyard “off-limits” to coal-seam gas mining activities, as it implements what it describes as the toughest industry control in the nation.”

    So the question is – how can the initial proposition being “a few checks and balances” not be clearly misleading?

    CSG companies in Queensland have completed comprehensive Environmental Impact Statements (EIS’s) and according to submission made to the Queensland Competition Authority, one company has noted that is spends $29M per annum on environmental management to comply with the 1500+ state and federal conditions attached to their project approvals.

    Further the QLD CSG companies have to manage both State and Federal process that adaptively apply new laws and regulations on a month by month basis. Many of these regulations are not based on science or risk, and instead they are politically motivated.

    The anti-CSG movement also chooses to ignore that on top of the EIS’s for the CSG to LNG projects, the State has an statutory Social Impact Management Plan, where the same company is making a $150M contribution to local and community infrastructure, providing services and benefits of the community and region in which they operate.

    Further, your article indicates that the anti-CSG movement has thus far prevented CSG mining in NSW (and while I have strong views on the fact that CSG extraction has very limited similarities to “Mining” other than the extraction of a resource from the earth), the movement has so far only prevented exploration for CSG. While I know that exploration has potential to lead to commercial extraction, the fact that the movement seeks to prevent any exploration and any chance of gaining a scientific understanding of the coals, associated gas and the regional groundwater geology, behest of the State’s and the communities interests, is troublesome.

    However, I guess that preventing the companies on obtaining robust scientific information on the regional water, coal and gas resource, in order to determine if the risks are a bold as presented by the anti-CSG campaign is the goal of these groups. After-all, without this information then who-is-right and who-is-wrong is moot.

    I wonder if all hydrocarbon supplies, including all oil products, petroleum products such as petrol, diesel and other liquids, and natural gas inc. domestic supplies and LPG were cut from consumers, based on the misleading campaign run by anti-GSG groups, whether this would quell the hysteria generated by a grassroots minority. Or would the politicians listen to the majority of consumers who accept these products and stables to our economy, would force politicians to again change their position? After-all we drill onshore for oil, use the same drilling rigs, drill through the same geology and aquifers as the CSG guys and more importantly, produce these oil and gas products to the national benefit, and since the 1970’s have been using the hydraulic fracture stimulation to do so.

    Would you be prepared to turn off the tap? Perhaps a campaign that sought to have all consumers stop using all hydrocarbon products would be as successful? I think not.

  8. chuzzlenut says

    Tony Abbott is on record as saying he will get rid of Nicola Roxon’s plain cigarette packaging. The way he’ll do it is to use the Trans Pacific Partnership. So not only will the TPP rein in the anti-CSG movement, it will remove a terrific coup against global tobacco companies. Not only a damned shame, but unconscionable. Then again, when did Abbott ever have a political “conscience”?

  9. Tony Gurnett says

    There is a chance that Abbott will destroy the conservatives by over playing his hand? Next election if it is so…more people voting and less informal…there are some 3 million registered that didn’t vote or were informal plus the “change of heart” petit bourgeois…near a million? Now that could be a wipe-out? Well over 100 non coalition seats!

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