I was caught between being amused and bemused by the article I read in Hart Energy’s Oil and Gas Investor.
The author explained that you, Mr Pallas, addressed the APPEA’s annual conference and told 2500 delegates that the recently elected Andrews Government was keen to secure new sources of supply to create “reliable, long-term supply of affordable gas”.
You assured the delegates that the current Labor Government was going to act move decisively on coal seam gas and were quoted as saying, “as treasurer, I am acutely aware of the need for companies to have certainty of the regulatory environment.”
However, the article did not refer to anything you said about the uncertainty afflicting communities like Seaspray, Yarram, Inverloch and many others across Gippsland and Western Victoria, and of the need of the people in these communities for certainty – for business reasons and for peace of mind.
Perhaps that was an oversight on the part of the author.
Perhaps you made the case rationally that Victoria’s regional communities have been in place for generations before the corporations with interests in Victoria even existed, and that these communities will continue to exist long after the corporations have moved on; perhaps you asked them to remember that the people in those communities relied upon the schools and shops and churches and halls, the very infrastructure of their lives; I would not be surprised if your pointed out to them that the streams and creeks were places where children swam in the summer, fished and caught tadpoles, in fact that these very modest stream banks were their first science labs; perhaps you reminded the APPEA delegates that you got your job by virtue of people such as these and you respected them.
And it’s possible you pointed out to the delegates that, as treasurer for the state, you were aware that those good people in the communities contribute generously to the state’s coffers and it wouldn’t do to disrupt that revenue stream.
The trouble is, I’m not entirely confident that you would have spoken to these issues.
As you might imagine, these issues are considered crucial to those living in threatened communities. Threatened communities! Remember that phrase, please.
If you are genuine in your concern about gas availability, there is something you can recommend which, upon implementation, will quickly ensure that the country has reliable and affordable gas supplies: follow in the footsteps of every other gas-producing nation and protect domestic supplies.
In the case of Australia, there is plenty of gas: the price rise and the shortfalls are because the gas companies prefer the price they can get in Asia. This is not a secret after all.
Even the European banker for Santos announced the strategy. In fact, every other gas producing nation protects its domestic market and keeps the cost to the consumer in line with the cost of production.
As you know, 61 communities across Victoria have declared themselves opposed to onshore gas: each of these communities, without exception, has an overwhelming proportion of it citizens who have made a clear choice and chosen to live without coal mines and gas fields. They felt threatened.
And in each one of these communities, there are scores of people who have been researching the issues around onshore gas (fracking), are up to date on scientific research and well informed about the catastrophic history of fracking around the world.
Mr Pallas, it seemed to me that you were trying to sound like an expert on the gas industry but, instead you sounded like someone who wanted to please the gas industry.
We are used to people from the city playing fast and loose with the facts… and with the lives of people in the regions.
We’re used to former cabinet ministers and other men of ‘standing’ cruising through the region, talking down to us, patting us on the heads and trying to console us with platitudes, as if we were in the final stages of dementia.
However, in making your undignified address to APPEA, you insulted the people in the small communities across this state who have been fighting the coal seam gas threat for years.
Mr Pallas, you were quoted as saying, “The public are confused and uncertain about unconventional gas exploration and extraction.”
I would put it to you that the people in threatened communities are not confused.
I would dare to suggest that many of us are much better informed than you are.
In fact, I challenge you to publicly debate the merits of coal seam gas, the economics, the community destruction and the scientific research that the gas companies don’t want anyone to know about.
David Arnault, Mirboo North.
A letter to state treasurer Tim Pallas