Australian musician and winner of Australia’s Golden Guitar Best Male Artist, Luke O’Shea is a passionate social activist and opposer to the environment harming coal mining in Australia.
Just days after winning the award for best Male Artist, Luke and his father chained themselves to a water pump at Maules Creek mine near Narribri and were subsequently arrested.
Being a fascinating figure not only for his headstrong admirable environmental opinions, but also his position as a strange dichotomy being a country music singer who vocally is protesting industry practises, we asked O’Shea a little about his position as an influential musician and how he utilises his platform and voice to help fight against coal mining, so he penned the following piece.
I wish to express my sincere thanks to the Australian Country Music fraternity and my musical peers for their belief and votes, bestowing me the honor of being the recipient of three Golden Guitars at the CMAA Australian Country Music Awards, held in Tamworth, this January.
It’s incredibly humbling and satisfying to know people are starting to believe I take my role as an Australian Country Music ‘Singer Songwriter’ very seriously and it’s a responsibility I am determined to uphold and develop for the remainder of my career.
My job description is simple really, to sing up this incredible land and the unique people upon it. But sometimes it requires more than words and passionate pleas to get the message across – actions will always speak louder.
I think most Australians are slowly becoming aware that many of their countrymen are at war.
There is a feeling that Australia is being ‘sold out’, along with so many established communities and industries that have made this country thrive and given us so much of our unique identity. This feeling, that is growing like a sickening wave of nausea and disbelief that our political leaders could be so gluttonous and short sighted, is starting to rise up out of the armchairs and become active.
Everyday Australians of every age and every socio-economic, political, ethnic and religious background are beginning to say ‘NO’ to the current vision for Australia.
I’ve attempted to bring awareness to the desperate plight of many of these people through my song and video ‘Sing You Up’. With the success of that particular song at the recent awards, I felt to my absolute core it would have been the height of hypocrisy if I did not turn that intensified media spotlight upon the people that inspired and made me aware of the wide range of intrinsic battles everyday Australians are fighting – FOR US ALL – right now!Australia is being ‘sold out’, along with so many established communities and industries that have made this country thrive
The enemy has not used bayonets or bullets to invade, but bureaucracy and bullshit. Greed is our enemy, ignorance and apathy its allies. While we slept in the trust our elected leaders had the same love and respect for the land as their constituents, the enemy successfully invaded through an open invitation and were seemingly encouraged to take ownership of our most precious resources. They have successfully infiltrated our government and now utilize our councils and police force to suppress and shut out the very people they swore to protect and serve.
The current War in Australia is being waged on many fronts; environmental, cultural, agricultural, political, ethical and rational – so it was important that I pick my fight.
Upon the land that once belonged to my family and just behind the farmhouse where my dad was born, built by my grand-father and great grand-father, on the bend of the once mighty Namoi River, there is now a giant pump and long pipeline that is allowed to draw a staggering three billion litres of water from a drought affected region to simply wash coal – rendering it poison.
Just North of Boggabri, on the edge of the Liverpool Plains, this region is one of Australia’s few black soil agriculture food bowls. That pump, which has somehow been granted a license to draw 85% of the High Security Water from the Lower Namoi River (meaning what is accessible during times of severe drought), belongs to Whitehavens Maules Creek coal mine. This is Australia’s largest open cut mine, carved out of the culturally and environmentally significant Leard State Forest.
Why does a coal mine need so much freshwater? On average it takes 300L of fresh water to wash and prepare 1 tonne of coal for sale. The Whitehaven coal mine at Maules Creek is currently able to produce 6 Million tonnes per Annum (Mtpa) increasing over three years to 13 Mtpa. Some of the water is collected from onsite dams but the vast majority comes from onsite and neighbouring bores that draw heavily from the aquifers beneath the Liverpool Plains and local river systems.
A stone’s throw from Maules Creek, over in Gunnedah, is the newly proposed Chinese-owned Shenhua Coal Mine, set in the heart of the black soil Breeza Plains, another one of our blessed agricultural food bowls. Shenhua has just been given access to a potential 10,000,000+ Mtpa for a 30 year period, multiply that number by 300L of water drawn from local river systems and delicate aquifers that irrigate the Breeza Plains- you do the math – it is simply unsustainable.
It is the government’s responsibility to protect our food and water. It’s simple. So why are the largest open cut coal mines in Australia being allowed to expand, drill and blast their way into our richest agricultural regions – the Liverpool and Breeza Plains?
Why did my 71 year old father and I decide to break the law and ‘lock-on’ to that giant water pump?
It was not an anti-mining statement: it was an anti-greed statement!
We understand the importance of mining to Australia. We have family members and close friends who work in the coal mining industry. However, due to our government’s greed and their failure to regulate unconventional mining licenses, which now cover 53% of Australia (17x the size of Great Britain), the livelihoods and communities of mine workers are at risk and threatened due to the saturation of coal on the market.The enemy has not used bayonets or bullets to invade, but bureaucracy and bullshit.
The price of coal on the world market has decreased more than 50% over the last 18 months. Australian mines are stockpiling coal in the hope that world market prices rise. Coal mine employees within established mining communities are being forced to take long service leave, reduced work hours and pay cuts or are simply being retrenched. We do not need anymore coal mines – and lets not even start with the debate on Coal Seam Gas!
Depression of the land and its people is endemic. There is a feeling of abandonment and hopelessness among so many rural communities’ and their families as a consequence of this crime being left unaddressed.
As stated before – My responsibility as an Australian singer songwriter is to Sing Up the land and its people. Any media attention coming my way from musical endeavors will be used to shine a light on the deals done in the shadows and to amplify the call from people on the land – which in turn may illuminate others to their plight and offer some level of hope that people in the cities and in other regional communities around Australia – do care!
Who will answer their call?
Over 350 people have been arrested within the last eighteen months at the Maules Creek blockade alone. These are not radical hippies, they are everyday Australians, mothers, fathers, grandparents, proud Gomeroi people, doctors, lawyer, religious leaders, rugby players, a 93 year old Kokoda War veteran, and now me and my dad, all deeply concerned about the direction Australia is heading and our lack of vision for its sustainable future.
Who will answer the call?
If you’d like to learn more about what is happening and the amazing people out there peacefully and professionally taking on these Goliaths – Go to http://frontlineaction.org/ or http://www.lockthegate.org.au/.
Luke O’Shea will perform with Adam Harvey at the Sydney Opera House for one night only on May 15. Tickets are available at www.sydneyoperahouse.com, Ticketek and the Sydney Opera House Box Office (02) 9250 7777.
Luke will also perform at the Gympie Music Muster from August 27 – 30, tickets are on sale now at www.muster.com.au.
Photo image credit: www.smh.com.au