Article from today's Toowomba Chronicle -
Dinner with Premier angers Felton farmers
By Jim Campbell
6th August 2009
FELTON farmers were outraged yesterday after they learnt that mining company Ambre Energy took part in a pay-per-view business dinner with Premier Anna Bligh in December last year.
Ambre Energy is proposing to build an open-cut coal mine and petrochemical plant in the Felton Valley, 20 minutes south of Toowoomba.
It has been revealed the company paid an unknown amount of money to be part of the exclusive dinner in December.
Representatives from Surat Basin mining company Linc Energy were also at the dinner.
Friends of Felton spokesman Rob McCreath yesterday described the arrangement as "disgraceful" and "undemocratic".
"How can we possibly have a fair and balanced judgement here when the company that is proposing the project is paying money to have dinner with the Premier?"
"The whole thing stinks," Mr McCreath said.
"We’re a community group, we don’t have a lot of money and we’re up against these big companies with lots of dollars."
Mr McCreath said Friends of Felton was currently raising money to employ professionals to contribute to their submission to Ambre Energy’s Environmental Impact Statement.
"The question of access is core to all of this," Mr McCreath said.
Ambre Energy director of business development Michael van Baarle said he paid money to attend the Labor Party dinner which he said was a fund-raiser for Member for Ipswich West Wayne Wendt.
Mr van Baarle said he went to school with Mr Wendt in Ipswich and wanted to support him.
He said the Premier was at the dinner, but he did not have a conversation with her.
He said Ambre Energy representatives had never paid money for direct access to Ministers.
Ms Bligh said this week she was banning her Ministers and State MPs from attending these types of functions and has challenged Opposition Leader John-Paul Langbroek to do the same.