You may recall the Gas Market Taskforce Report, better known as the Reith Report, which was handed to the Victorian Government in late 2013.
The Taskforce’s mission was to figure out whether an onshore gas industry is the right move for Victoria. The whole taskforce was comprised of mining industry representatives, investors, board members, and lobbyists. The report was basically a farce, recommending that the government “proactively support the development” of a fracking industry in Victoria. Facing enormous community opposition, the Government has since tried to downplay these recommendations; shortly after its release they even announced an extension of the ban on fracking (hydraulic fracturing) in Victoria.
The Report is available online here. At the bottom you will find a link where you can give feedback – but public submissions are only open until 31 March 2014. The government needs to know that there is still large scale community opposition to this industry, and that we won’t be fooled by such blatant attempts to rush a dangerous industry through.
That’s why we need as many people and groups as possible to write a little bit about why unconventional gas is NOT the right move for Victoria, and about the various (glaring) problems with the procedural aspects of the report (we’ve included some suggestions below!).
Basically the report only addresses how to initiate and rapidly expand onshore gas mining. But there are any number of important questions that should be asked first. Should Victoria have onshore gas mining? Will it destroy our agricultural sector, tourism, viticulture and other food production? Will it poison and deplete our water resources? Will it have short and long term health impacts of rural communities?
The rest of this blog will be contain a few starting points for you to use as the basis of your feedback. These are such guidelines, feel free to choose the ones that speak to you, add in your own, or start from scratch. We highly encourage you to personalise your submission, tell your story. How will unconventional gas affect you, your family, your community? Please also encourage the people you know to put in a submission.
Click here to go straight to the submission form, or read on for some tips.
The main basic reasons that we think this report is problematic are:
– Lack of community consultation
– Ignoring widespread opposition
– False economic argument
– No acknowledgment of effect on water, or the health of communities
– Ignores contribution to climate change
– Prioritising mining over agriculture and tourism.
Here is a bit of an elaboration on those points:
The Government trusted the research and writing of this report to a group of people who are not representative of Victoria, and who would gain a great deal from advancing this industry quickly. A large number of the people working on the report would receive direct monetary gain from an unconventional gas industry going ahead. Here is a list of the people who worked on the report:
In addition to Mr Reith, the taskforce comprised of: Mr Mark Collette, the Group Executive Manager of Energy Markets for Energy Australia; Mr Frank Calabria, the Energy Markets Chief Executive Officer for Origin Energy; the President of Dow Chemicals Australia and New Zealand, Mr Craig Arnold; the Chief Executive of the Australian Petroleum Production & Exploration Association, Mr David Byers; Ms Cheryl Cartwright, who is the Chief Executive of the Australian Pipeline Industry Association; a Federal Liberal MP and director of Port Jackson Partners consulting firm, Mr Angus Taylor, and Mr Innes Willox, who is the Chief Executive of the Australian Industry Group.
2. Lack of community consultation
The report took no steps towards consulting affected communities. The Taskforce showed a complete lack of regard or respect for the concerns of rural communities that are blanketed by unconventional gas licences and would be deeply impacted by the development of this industry.
3. Ignoring widespread opposition
The report completely ignored widespread concern and opposition around Victoria, particularly in the places that would be most affected. Currently, five communities in Gippsland and Western Victoria have undertaken a democratic surveying process where the town is eventually declared Coal and Gas Free. All of those communities had more than 90% of participants voting for their community to be Coal and Gas Free. There are more than 20 other communities undertaking this process. The report ignored the lack of social license for this industry.
4. False economic argument
The Report makes one major argument for the need for a Victorian onshore gas industry: gas prices are rising, and gas supplies are dwindling. Therefore we need an onshore gas industry to ensure Victorians have access to affordable gas in the medium-term future. However this argument is profoundly flawed and widely criticised by economists. Gas prices will indeed rise, but this is because the Queensland gas industry will be exporting overseas, which will link Australia’s cheap domestic gas market with the much more expensive international market. Overseas gas prices are 2-3 times higher than Australian prices, so we will forced to compete against European and Asian consumers, for gas, which was produced in Australia. Moreover, there is enough offshore gas, for example in the Bass Strait, to supply Victoria’s gas needs for several decades. Any gas produced onshore would be packaged and sent overseas, reinforcing the link with the international market. If the Gas Market Taskforce was really interested in maintaining cheap gas for Victorians, they would have recommended storing gas for future domestic consumption. Instead, they are pushing for an expansion of an export industry, which will hurt the bank balance of every Victorian who uses gas.
5. No acknowledgment of effect on water, or the health of communities
The report claimed that there have been no documented cases of unconventional gas affecting water supply. It entirely ignored an array of cases in the USA – where the unconventional gas industry boomed 10 years ago. Also, gas company Santos has just been officially fined by the EPA for contaminating an aquifer in NSW with dangerous chemicals including uranium. The report shows complete disregard for the health of our water systems. Contaminated water supply would cripple the agricultural industry and have huge impacts on the basic health of local people.
6. Ignores contribution to climate change
The report completely ignores the large impact that the unconventional gas industry would have on carbon emissions. It does not discuss the incredibly high levels of fugitive emissions of methane – from leaking wells and pipes – that is 20 times more potent a greenhouse gas than CO2. This would greatly effect the state’s 5% emissions reduction target and help contribute to an unsafe climate for our future.
7. Prioritising mining over agriculture and tourism
The report gives little value to industries such as agriculture and tourism industries, which would see huge economic ramifications from an unconventional gas industry being established in Victoria.