MOYARRA, that tiny little hamlet situated between Inverloch and Korumburra, was an out-of-the-way place for two State Ministers to come last Wednesday.
Certainly, the national-award winning Prom Country Farmhouse Cheesery is well worth a visit any time it is open of a weekend or public holiday if only to taste the magnificent ‘Venus Blue’, officially Australia’s best.
But why last Wednesday and why with the Labor candidate for the seat of Bass, Jordan Crugnale?
The reason why the two ministers were there, Minister for Resources Tim Pallas and the Minister for Energy, Environment and Climate Change Lily D’Ambrosio, was to make a point about the government’s “permanent ban” on hydraulic fracturing or ‘fracking’ for onshore gas as a method of releasing natural gas from the subterranean strata.
“I couldn’t think of a more spectacular jewel in the state’s crown to come to than this to restate our commitment to protect the clean-green reputation of Victoria’s $13 billion agricultural sector, and 190,000 jobs in Agriculture, with our ban on fracking,” Mr Pallas said.
“Rural Victoria needs this guarantee, not only for their farming enterprises but for all they hold near and dear.”
Mr Pallas said he was well aware there were issues around the supply of gas to the domestic market in Victoria, but he claimed the state produced twice what it needed for the domestic market from the reserves in Bass Strait, which he said were under Federal Government control.
“Our quality food, our clean and green reputation will not be put at risk under Labor and that’s an important commitment to rural Victoria,” he said after passing two years since the fracking ban was enshrined in legislation.
“That’s the strongest protection the State Parliament can give, and even if there was a move by the Coalition to remove the ban, they’d need to get a vote in both houses of parliament.”
He said Labor was proud of its ban on fracking and its support of rural communities.
Ms D’Ambrosio spoke in a similar vein, also saying that the government had gone further to enhance the clean green reputation of Burke and Bronwyn Brandon’s award-winning produce by supporting an environmental audit of their operation and the introduction of solar as part of an environmental upgrade agreement.
Minister D’Ambrosio said the solar panels would not only save the Brandon’s money but would also help see them through power outages in the area.
But both ministers acknowledged the government continued to have an open mind about the prospect of allowing conventional gas exploration and production after a moratorium was removed in 2020.
Speaking to the ‘Sentinel-Times’ afterwards he said onshore gas production might be a moot point in Victoria.
“We don’t have any confirmed resources in Victoria (onshore gas) and until we know if there are any resources and whether it can be extracted safely we’re not going to put the environment or agriculture at risk.
…and why was Ms Crugnale there? Hard to say as the location of Prom Country Cheese, situated at 275 Andersons Inlet Road Moyarra is located in the electorate of Gippsland South and not Bass, albeit it’s close to the border.
The government has 13 seats in the Upper House presently, and can rely on the six votes of the Greens, plus two others to provide them with the necessary 21 votes. Mr Pallas said it was a difficult ask to win more Legislative Council seats at the November 24 poll, but it was a possibility.
Onshore gas mining was an issue in State Parliament last week following an errant statement by Bass MP Brian Paynter but he has since reiterated his 100% opposition to fracking.
“I don’t know what they are crowing about. Labor is the only party to issue fracking licences in Victoria. Thankfully we put the original moratorium on fracking and nothing went through,” he said.
Fracking ban stays, they say