08 July 2015
by Nicole Hasham

Agriculture Minister Barnaby Joyce slams Abbott government over Shenhua coal mine approval

Agriculture Minister Barnaby Joyce says "the world has gone mad" after his own government approved the highly contentious Shenhua Watermark coal mine in his NSW electorate, despite his vehement protests.

I think it is ridiculous that you would have a major mine in the midst of Australia's best agricultural land

Environment Minister Greg Hunt on Wednesday conditionally approved the $1.2 billion project, putting him at odds with his Nationals colleague who has previously decried the proposal by the Chinese government-owned firm as "an absurdity".

"I've never supported the Shenhua mine. I think it is ridiculous that you would have a major mine in the midst of Australia's best agricultural land," Mr Joyce said in a statement posted on his official Facebook page on Wednesday.

"I've done everything in my power to try and stop the mine … I think the world has gone mad when apparently you cannot build a house at Moore Creek because of White Box grassy woodlands but you can build a super mine in the middle of the Breeza plains."

Mr Joyce has staked his political capital on promises to defend the interests of family farms against threats from mining companies, and has opposed overseas government-backed companies owning farmland.

State and federal Greens MPs accused Mr Joyce of failing to protect his constituents from the mammoth Shenhua proposal.

NSW Greens MP and mining spokesman Jeremy Buckingham said on Twitter that Mr Joyce was fucking useless'.

The approval also pits the government against influential radio host Alan Jones, who has previously raised strong objections to the mine, saying it would be built on "soil that you could eat" and farmers were "defenceless".

Mr Jones is overseas and unavailable for comment.

Mr Joyce, who has previously said his hands were tied on the issue, on Wednesday said his government's decision was "unfortunate" but Mr Hunt had the power to stop the project if it emerged modelling was flawed.

Mr Hunt says the project will be subject to stringent conditions informed by independent scientific advice.