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Motley group of activists owe much to the 'frack man’

Reporter: Adam Shand
IT'S a protest movement so diverse its factions concede they share nothing but their opposition to the rapid advance of coal-seam gas projects across the nation, but as Queensland's gas boom divides opinion, the state government, and the companies that have invested up to $65 billion, are finding the Lock the Gate Alliance more difficult to ignore.

Cost over-runs, pressure on gas prices and strong competition for export markets, analysts say, may turn hopes of a CSG-led recovery into a pipedream, much to the delight of its critics.

Lock the Gate and its fellow travellers range across political and social spectrums. At one end there are Sydney talkback radio king Alan Jones, pokies heir Kjerulf Ainsworth and old-money farmers from Queensland's deep black soil plains. At the other is a transient army of radical environmentalists, professional protesters, misfits and agitators. This weekend more than 100 have gathered at Tara, two hours west of Toowoomba, for a campaign of direct action.

At the helm is a former tunnel digger from Sydney, Dayne Pratzky, 39. He calls himself "the frack man", an ironic reference to the practice of injecting fluids and sand at high pressure to liberate the methane gas.

"This weekend's protests are the last stand," he said. "This will be an all-out assault on QGC, where we aim to cause maximum delay and disruption to work on the company's Kenya Gas fields."

The event kicked off with protesters, posing as workers, climbing QGC's reverse osmosis plant on Thursday and unfurling a Lock the Gate banner. "I can't say who went in," he said, " but the people who did scaled a 200-foot-high tower and nobody challenged them. On the way out some of the workers were actually cheering them on. I estimate that every time we spend a dollar in organising events like this, it costs the company $100,000."
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