By Michael Giles
THE new Minister for Industry, Employment and Resources, Wade Noonan, is set to make an announcement next Wednesday on the State Government’s response to the Parliamentary Inquiry into unconventional gas in Victoria, which received more than 1800 submissions.
The response is months overdue.
Unfortunately for the opponents of Coal Seam Gas mining and those concerned about its impact on high-value farming land and groundwater, the forces against them are gathering on both sides of politics.
The power crisis in South Australia, where gas and electricity prices spiked to record levels, while the power interconnector was down, has focused the attention of people like the Federal Environment and Energy Minister Josh Frydenberg, who has since come out strongly in support of exploration and development.
A pity he wasn’t looking after our interests when the gas export deals were signed.
And with the Council of Australian Governments’ Energy Council meeting in Canberra last Friday, August 19, sending a clear message that onshore gas development is an urgent national priority “to protect jobs, ease price pressures on consumers and support the transition to a cleaner energy sector”, it’s getting even harder for CSG opponents to be heard.
Of course, the Australian Petroleum Production and Exploration Association has jumped all over these developments, placing particular pressure on this state to fall in line.
“The Victorian Government has a choice between short-term politics or long-term regional development and energy security,” said APPEA Chief Executive Dr Malcolm Roberts last week.
Local MP, Brian Paynter said this week that Victorian Liberals were still finalising their policy but he was of the opinion they would be favouring an extension of the moratorium in Victoria, which he agreed would leave local MPs at odds with their Federal colleague.
So it’s not looking good for CSG opponents.
We have, however, heard it all before about the local jobs such regional development will create.
The truth is they don’t give a stuff what happens beyond the tram tracks and particularly so, not in Gippsland, which was ignored again this week when support funding was handed out for the response to family violence.
Unless we get iron-clad assurances about the impact of onshore gas development on the environment, a guarantee on jobs and investment, and a say in what happens – we don’t want a bar of it.
And going by the performance of governments, state and federal in recent times, you couldn’t be confident they know what the hell they’re doing beyond making a fast grab for cash.