The School of Biological, Earth and Environmental Science at the University of NSW will today host a lecture by controversial coal seam gas company Eastern Star Gas (ESG). UNSW students, with The Wilderness Society, are organising a protest outside the lecture to oppose ESG’s plans to put gas wells through the Pilliga Scrub and to question the extent of financial support between ESG and UNSW which may impact the university’s independence.
Greens Senator and higher education spokesperson Lee Rhiannon says, “It is disappointing to see an environmental science school at a public university seeming to endorse coal seam gas in the face of huge public concern about its impact on water and farm land.
“Dwindling public funding has forced universities to turn to fee paying students and private corporations for a financial boost. Close corporate relationships inevitably put a question mark over whether money is provided in return for access to students or other favourable treatment.
“Eastern Star Gas has supported as least one PHD in the School of Biological, Earth and Environmental Science.
“As part of the Narrabri Gas Project, Eastern Star Gas wants to put 550 gas wells through the Pilliga Forest, which is the largest temperate woodland in eastern Australia and home to threatened species such as the Pilliga Mouse. Farmers and environmentalists have joined together to strongly oppose this project.
“Our public universities should not be seen to back this controversial project. It raises a question about whether UNSW is too cosy with Eastern Star Gas.
“In the upcoming budget estimates session I will ask the Minister for Tertiary Education Chris Evans about the level of financial and in-kind support public universities are receiving from mining companies such as Eastern Star Gas and whether he thinks this is appropriate”, said Senator Rhiannon.
President of UNSW Student Representative Council Osman Faruqi said: “Students are organising a protest outside the lecture today to say that public universities should not be rolling out the red carpet for big mining companies using environmentally controversial techniques.
“We are concerned that UNSW faculties are being forced into shotgun marriages with corporates to keep courses alive. Corporate sponsorship of research and faculties undermines the independence of public education
“As a student of environmental engineering at UNSW, I’m concerned that the university’s attempts to improve its environmental image are being undermined by its links to companies like Eastern Star Gas.
“This raises the question, what impact will UNSW’s relationship with Eastern Star Gas have on teaching and research into the dangers of coal seam gas and the opportunities in renewable energies?”, said Mr Faruqi.
The lecture will be given by Peter Fox, the Executive General Manager, Stakeholder Relations for Eastern Star Gas at the University of NSW at 6pm today. More details about the lecture and Mr Fox here: http://www.bees.unsw.edu.au/event/29th-jj-frankel-memorial-lecture
Contact: Lee Rhiannon 0487 350 880, Osman Faruqi 0401 423 219. Wilderness Society: Chris Daley 0451 007 915