AusNZ Festival part two – Frackman

FRACKMAN the Movie


Imagine this:

You decide to quit your life in the city and buy yourself a bit of land in Queensland. You build yourself a shack. Then you notice the bulldozers and you realise that people are digging beneath your property for coal seam gas. You are told you own the ground you live on but not the bit beneath it, and there’s not a thing you can do about it. You are offered compensation of $1,200.

You speak to your neighbours, who’ve been putting up with this for years. You learn their kids are suffering from headaches and nosebleeds. You try to get in touch with the gas company, and with the Queensland government, but all you get is fob-offs, and the odd conversation hanging around your truck, but nothing is resolved. You buy yourself a gas detector and discover there’s gas leaking from the pipes. You hold a gas lighter over the river and the water catches fire. The gas company eventually arrive and carry out their own checks and declare everything is fine.

You take to sneaking into the miners’ depot at night, fixing trackers onto their trucks and monitoring the water into which they are pouring their chemicals. Your own tasting makes you throw up but the sample you send to the lab is mysteriously held up, and proves negative.

You find yourself fronting protest movements and blockades. You travel to America and address the anti-fracking crowds there. Along the way you meet a lovely American girl on the internet but you don’t want her to visit because of the devastation. Eventually she does anyway, but by that time you’ve given up. You’ve lost the fight and sold your property to the gas company for an undisclosed sum.

Dayne Pratzsky (
Dayne Pratzky (

That is the essence of the documentary film ‘Frackman’, which was made over a period of four years in Queensland. It is a very convincing film and the protagonist, Dayne Pratzky, is a compelling, force-of-nature, ‘accidental activist’. You feel angry, and ashamed, you vow to immediately ‘do something’, like divest yourself of any savings that turn out to be invested in the coal seam gas industry.


 Later on you’re searching on Google and there, under ‘Frackman the Movie: More Fiction than Fact’, you find a riposte from the Energy Resource Information Centre. It’s headed

Frackman facts

and it goes through the film, item by item, repudiating all its claims and backing up the argument with data. It says that ‘A resource licence holder is required to have an access agreement in place before they can lawfully enter the property’. That makes sense. The film acknowledges that unlawful entry of private property is trespass, so the hint is to lock up and not allow anyone access. (Which begs the question, How did they get onto the Frackman’s land in the first place?)

It draws on apparent independent medical examiners who assert ‘a clear link cannot be drawn between the health complaints of some residents in the Tara region and impacts of the local CSG industry on air, water or soil within the community’, and that headaches and nosebleeds are all part and parcel of being a kid. They quote from a test undertaken on 43 wells by the CSIRO that ‘All were found to have some level of emissions, although in all cases these were very low compared to overall production’. And that ‘No evidence of leakage of methane around the outside of well casings was found at any of the wells sampled’.


So what is a person to think?

My personal instinct is to be very, very wary of coal seam gas mining; that insufficient research was done before they launched in, and that nobody can predict the possible long-term outcome, the effect on the water table and on the already delicate environment. No doubt the Energy Resource Information Centre – who are ‘funded by the natural gas industry, and make no secret of that fact’ – will dismiss the likes of Frackman, and of me, as ignoramuses who are needlessly scared of something we don’t understand. That’s another way of saying ‘If you don’t understand something then keep your mouth shut and your ideas to yourself.’ It’s the sort of thing bankers and financiers might say. It’s how the elite have always kept the ordinary people under control, through ignorance. It’s why people like William Tyndale were burnt at the stake for translating the Bible into English so ordinary people could actually read and understand it.

William Tyndale (Wikipedia)
William Tyndale (Wikipedia)

Quite apart from all that, coal seam gas, or unconventional gas, or any kind of gas come to that, is in the end a fossil fuel and therefore yesterday’s energy source. Surely of all countries in the world Australia, with its endless sunshine and its wild, wild weather, is the best place to be looking forwards for a change and concentrating its energies, so to speak, on developing renewables.

As, indeed, should we in the UK.

Australia & New Zealand Festival of Literature & the Arts

It’s here again: the now-annual AusNZ Festival, at King’s College in the Strand.

AusNZ festival

Taking place right now, and over the coming weekend. Highlights (for me) include Let’s Talk about Anzac, a discussion with the director and cast of the current production of The One Day of the Year (a terrific production, reviewed on my theatre website at; The Indigenous Voice, with Kate Grenville and Tony BirchThe Mara Crossing, on migration, and Who Owns Culture? with Gaye Sculthorpe, curator of the current exhibition at the British Museum, Indigenous Australia.

There are films too: Tim Winton’s The Turning is on on this evening and Frackman, ‘an observational documentary following ordinary Queenslanders caught up in a modern day multinational “gas rush” to secure and exploit coal seam gas’, is showing on Saturday evening.

Other luminaries appearing include Howard Jacobson and AC Grayling, but unfortunately not Don Watson, whose fascinating book The Bush I am reading right now.

The full programme and booking details can be found here:

The festival is a must for anyone interested in Australia and New Zealand.

Festivals, conferences & inserting images

The AusNZ festival of literature and the arts is all over now. I blogged about it on my other site at The Worst Country in the Worldand there’s more on the Festival’s official site at It was a fantastic event and the hope is to make it a regular one. If you want to be included in their emailing list have a look at their site.AusNZ festival

Happening right now as I type this is (and being tweeted on @TLCUK) is the now annual TLC Conference: 

It starts today, Friday and continues on till the end of Saturday plus a ‘bonus’ half-day on Sunday. It’s always a buzzy event stuffed to the gills with information and the chance to chat to fellow writers, agents and other folk involved in the trad and self publishing business. If you’re there on Sunday come and say hello!


Meanwhile I’ve been genning up (not before time) on how to insert images into ebooks. Like so much else to do with ebooks it is, once you get your head round the instructions, dead easy.

I’ve updated my book to include these instructions (though not yet for print, which is to come). It’s available here – – for 77p.

Here they are:

The images must be in jpeg, gif or tiff format. If your originals are Word documents, as mine were, you can convert them into jpegs by printing them out and scanning them into your computer.

Bear in mind that your images will show up on some e-readers in greyscale, which means some colours may more or less disappear.

Inserting images

  • First, create a folder for your images, and name and number them in the order in which you want to insert them into your text.
  • In your text, place your cursor where you want to insert an image, click on Insert>Picture>Browse to the relevant file, click on the image and click Insert. Centre it.
  • Don’t put a page break before the image, and only add one space after it. Don’t worry if gaps appear before or after the images on your Word document.
  • Save this document in Word, and then as Web Page Filtered. Close it.


In your manuscript folder you should now see, in addition to your Word document, your Web-saved document and another folder that has been created for you with the same name. This second folder contains your images and has to be included with your web-saved document, which you need to zip, or compress.

  • To zip your web-saved document: right click on it, Send to>Compressed (zipped folder). A new folder will appear with a zip in it.
  • Drag the second folder containing your images into this folder. This zipped folder is the document you will be submitting.


Patsy Trench
London, June 2014