Concerns around fracking are unwarranted: Federal Labor

Shadow Minister for Energy and Resources Gary Gray.

Shadow Minister for Energy and Resources Gary Gray.

Shadow Minister for Energy and Resources Gary Gray has displayed a bipartisan commitment to the Coalition Government’s gas policy, stating that “all east coast governments should be focused on removing impediments to supply” and denounced calls for domestic gas reservation policies.

The statements, made by the former Woodside executive at the Australian Domestic Gas Outlook Conference (ADGO) in Sydney today, are in direct opposition to NSW Labor Leader Luke Foley’s anti-coal seam gas and -fracking policy proposals being made in the lead-up to the NSW election on Saturday.

Mr Gray said that state and federal governments have a very good understanding of the impacts of fracking, and argued that the process has and will continue to be managed effectively with robust regulation.

He supported his position by citing several recent inquiries that have been made into coal seam gas and fracking, including the NSW Chief Scientist Mary O’Kane’s report which supported development of the coal seam gas industry.

On the calls made by some unions, communities and state governments for the implementation of domestic gas reservation policies, Mr Gray was emphatic that reservations discourage investment in production and exploration, ultimately reducing the availability of gas supply for domestic or international use and thus increasing domestic gas prices.

Mr Gray cited the example of his home state of Western Australia, where the state’s gas prices are higher than any other Australian state because of the state’s 15 per cent domestic gas reservation policy. Mr Gray went on to call for the removal of the market policy.

Mr Gray argued that coal seam gas production is an immense opportunity for Australia, particularly rural Australia, and called for continued robust and efficient government regulation, better community engagement and better gas transmission to help address concerns over the industry, and to address rising eastern Australian gas prices.

Mr Foley’s anti-coal seam gas stance attracts opposition from other quarters

In another presentation at ADGO, former Federal Labor Minister for Resources and Energy Martin Ferguson labelled Mr Foley’s gas policy for the state as being opportunistic at the expense of job and energy security.

The question we must ask ourselves is how we move forward. The development of this industry is still not something that is being embraced by the people of this state.

Mr Ferguson, who now sits on various boards including the advisory board for the Australia Petroleum Production and Exploration Association (APPEA), said Mr Foley’s proposed termination of Santos Narrabri Gas Project would also severely impact investor confidence in the state.

NSW Minister for Resources and Energy Anthony Roberts also echoed Mr Ferguson’s comments, stating the policy is not based on science.

“Here we have the leader of a mainstream party believing that he will win so many votes from this stance that he is willing to jeopardise the state’s energy security to get them,’ Mr Roberts told ADGO.

“The question we must ask ourselves is how we move forward. The development of this industry is still not something that is being embraced by the people of this state,” Mr Roberts said

“The average person on the street, in NSW, has no idea that a gas crisis is looming.”

Last but not least, newly rebranded Australian Pipelines and Gas Association (APGA) Chief Executive Cheryl Cartwright echoed Mr Ferguson’s and Mr Roberts’ sentiments and said decisions need to be based on science rather than emotion.

“The debate on NSW gas development has become emotional. Decisions need to be based on scientific advice and then communicated effectively to the community,” Ms Cartwright said.

“The community has genuine concerns that should not be dismissed,” she said.

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