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At the coalface

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Annie Marlow, from the Illawarra Knitting Nannas Against Gas (IKNAG – pronounced I nag), casts an eye on coal seam gas in NSW. IKNAG was formed out of the Stop CSG Illawarra group with a particular focus on protecting Sydney’s drinking water catchment which the Illawarra shares. Despite not always making mainstream news the Knitting Nannas have an effect on politicians when they hold a Knit-in outside politicians’ offices, most MPs being on their best behaviour.

Below: Blue Mountains Knit-in, February 2015.
All images by Tony Markham More via Flickr link: ABC Open | Facebook | Twitter | Flickr | YouTube
The Nannas contact the politicians and the media well before they hold a Knit-in event.
One important part of the Knit-in is the questions asked of each politician about their stance on coal seam gas mining.
All politicians are asked the same questions and a record of their responses is kept and the responses published. 

One local state Labor MP changed her tune to coal seam gas as a result of a Knit-in just before the last election. Persistent action from Stop CSG Illawarra & IKNAG has halted the CSG mining exploration in the Sydney Water Special Areas, however the actions ands Knit-ins will not stop until the government legislates for a ban on CSG mining in drinking water catchment. 

Below: Knit-in outside office of Ryde member Victor Dominello, 2015    
Knitting Nannas have a reputation for tenacity as evidenced by the actions of the Northern Rivers and Gloucester KNAGS who along with overwhelming numbers in their communities have forced the Liberal state government to buy out gas licences there. In an article in The Age newspaper Michael West pointed out that the domestic price for gas is currently 60% higher for Australian users than the export price. 

The gas industry has been able to set the price and the rate of supply so that the Australian gas price remains artificially high. It seems that consumers are subsidising the gas that is being exported offshore and it is little wonder that AGL pulled out of Gloucester because it was uneconomic to keep mining for coal seam gas there. 

Below: 3 August 2015. Knit-in outside office of Stephen Jones, Federal MP for Throsby (now Whitlam).    
IKNAG has recently expanded its reach to include federal politicians because though gas is a state issue, water security is a national one. Their yes/no responses will also be published, the upcoming federal election making them wary. Clean water is essential for people to leave healthy lives and coal seam gas mining threatens underground and surface water.

Coal seam gas is still being mined at Camden, some homes being less than 200 metres away from wells, impacting on the health of children. Governments have given power to big corporations who can impress their will on communities that do not want coal seam gas activities there. The recent AGL decision to quit Gloucester, however, is a sign of a changing landscape. It is important that people like the Knitting Nannas remain at the 'coalface'. 

Below: March 2015 Wollongong Town Hall Knit-in    
Annie Marlow was interviewed for A Question of Balance by Ruby Vincent. All images by Tony Markham. Summary text by Victor Barry, February 2016. 

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