The Victorian government went to last year’s state election with a reserved stance on unconventional gas mining, committing to keeping the current moratorium in place while they conducted a parliamentary enquiry.
Since then, Minister for Energy and Resources, Lily D’Ambrosio, has said the moratorium will “remain in place until the science shows that it is safe and there is broad community support.”
However the Treasurer of the state seems to have a bit more of an industry-focused attitude.
This week Tim Pallas spoke at the opening of the annual conference of the Australian Petroleum Production & Exploration Association (“the voice of Australia’s oil and gas industry”).
While at the conference, Pallas seemed pretty keen to reassure everyone that the Labor party was still looking after the most important people in this debate: industry.
After waxing lyrical about the benefits the gas industry has given the state (did he mention the corroding holding ponds in Seaspray?) he went on to assure the bigwigs of the industry that he understood them.
“As treasurer, I am acutely aware of the need for companies to have certainty of the regulatory environment,” he said.
Pallas said the Labor government would strive to take a scientific view, rather than an emotionally charged one.
“The worst outcomes from early fracking in the US should not be taken as a baseline for the impact of the industry for Australia.
The public are confused and uncertain about unconventional gas exploration and extraction. It’s fair to say many Victorians remain unconvinced. To regain support it is necessary to do the hard yards.”
He also asked them to remember that it wasn’t Labor’s fault.
“We understand the industry’s frustration with the moratorium, but we also want to make it clear it was not a situation of our making.”
Communities who have been fighting to keep their areas Gasfield Free (61 now, and counting) were happy to hear recently that the parliamentary inquiry was to go ahead. Despite some issues with the terms of references, they were happy to know that the government was really going to listen to what they had to say.
So they were surprised and upset to hear Labor give a very different message to the industry that stands to benefit from the exploitation of this resource.
Perhaps the Labor party was just telling the gas industry what they wanted to hear. But we are disturbed that the Treasurer would say such things, inferring that the Victorian people just need a bit of convincing before this destructive industry can go full steam ahead.
If you feel the same way, think about getting in touch with Tim Pallas and letting him know:
2/56-58 Watton Street Werribee Vic 3030
Phone: (03) 9741 1133
For more of what he said: http://bit.ly/1Hy45TU