Vic Gov't unconventional gas submission questioned

The future of onshore unconventional gas in Victoria is relying on the Parliamentary Inquiry's report, draft due 1 September

The future of onshore unconventional gas in Victoria is relying on the Parliamentary Inquiry's report, draft due 1 September

The Victorian Inquiry into Onshore Unconventional Gas took another step forward with an inter-departmental panel grilled for not providing a clear viewpoint on the subject.

A panel of representatives from the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning and the Department of Economic Development, Jobs, Transport and Resources fronted the inquiry today to answer questions over the Victorian Government’s interdepartmental submission to the inquiry, which was submitted late last month.

The inquiry has so far received more than 1000 impassioned submissions from the public and interested stakeholders.

The government’s inter-departmental submission was questioned by the inquiry panel chairperson David Davis over whether it was an accurate reflection of each department’s concerns.

Citing government guidelines introduced in 2002 to reportedly align inter-departmental viewpoints, Mr Davis demanded to see each of the Victorian Government department’s individual submissions to the inquiry.

“Those guidelines seek to harmonise the views of departments, and consequently there are often variant views within different departments and I certainly would seek to see the initial submissions of the different departments so that I could understand their different positions,” he said.

Listing other Australian state government submissions to similar gas inquiries that have concluded that onshore unconventional is allowable, inquiry committee member and Liberal representative for Eastern Metropolitan Melbourne, Richard Della-Riva said the inquiry would suffer without a clear viewpoint from the Victorian government departments.

“How do you inform a decision maker if you are not yourself giving a view either way?” he questioned.

Anthony Hurst, Executive Director Earth Resources Development at Victorian Department of Economic Development said the government departments were specifically instructed not to provide a recommendation for the committee.

“We have been asked not to move to that stage,” he said, noting that the previous state Liberal government first gave the order to departments not to provide directional advice or to pre-empt any government decision in their submission.

“We are not in a position to drive the industry. We are in a position to provide factual information,” he insisted.

The Victorian Government’s inter-departmental submission to the inquiry was loaded with issues surrounding a lack of knowledge, understanding or reliable data around the prevalence and geological impact of unconventional gas developments.

When questioned whether those knowledge gaps and sufficient understanding of the resources available in Victoria could be attained with a moratorium in place, Mr Hurst admitted that they could not.

“We can do certain elements on the precompetitive side on the geologies, such as the seismic surveys in South Gippsland. But in terms of actually understanding what’s in the ground ultimately requires drilling to get the geological information and would require boreholes to actually test the permeability of the source rocks. Now that’s a large cost to taxpayers.”

An interim report from the Victorian Parliamentary Inquiry into Unconventional Onshore Gas is expected 1 September, and a final report on 1 December, 2015.

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