Activists don’t like being questioned in Senate hearing on the GAB

April 29th, 2016

Whatever your view on the long-term role of fossil fuels, it was hard to miss the palpable  aggravation shown by  Great Australian Bight activists when being questioned by a Senate committee in Adelaide this week.

Appearing before the Inquiry into Oil or Gas Production in the Great Australian Bight, representatives of the Australia Institute, the Conservation Council of South Australia, the International Fund for Animal Welfare and the Wilderness Society reacted tersely when asked questions about the Bight.

And what were the incisive questions which prompted the terse and evasive responses from the activists appearing before the committee?   Such testing questions as  ‘Do you drive a car? Do you shop at a supermarket?  If oil use is to stop, what fuel do you envisage being used for aeroplanes, trains, buses and trucks?’

Each of the witnesses were very willing to state their passionate opposition to oil and gas development in the Bight, and any other area of exploration. However, they became hesitant when asked what impact they thought this might have in Australia and other countries if it became the norm in the immediate future.

“We have to keep it in the ground,” the CCSA representative, Craig Wilkins, said.

“The world changed from horse-and-dray to cars in 10 years,” his colleague Kathryn Warhurst tried to help out.  “We could satisfy needs with a more local focus,” she added before a final comment by Mr Wilkins, who asked ”Why should we have to answer these questions?  It is not our fault.”

After stating that there was too much risk in allowing exploration in the Bight, The Wilderness Society’s Lyndon Schneiders  admitted that his organisation would not accept any risk at all.  When asked if he thought there was any risk in driving a car, Mr Schneiders snapped that he did not see the relevance of the question.

“You have to ask ‘what premium do you put on the value of your State,” he challenged the committee.

His colleague Peter Owen said the economy and ecology of southern Australia would be “obliterated” if an accident occurred in the Bight.

“The expansion of the fossil fuel industry simply can’t happen,” he said.

Senators from Western Australia and South Australia also expressed some exasperation at the Australia Institute claim that the Woodside oil and gas development of WA’s North-West Shelf had not delivered any economic benefits to Australia over the past three decades and that the benefits of hundreds of billions of dollars of investment nationally were “easily exaggerated”.

At the end of the day’s hearing, the SA Chamber of Minerals and Energy summed up the situation, saying activist groups made it clear they were “philosophically opposed to any oil and gas production anywhere”.

Chamber CEO Jason Kuchel summed it up well when he said:

“Our experience is that local communities on the Eyre Peninsula and greater South Australia welcome a new safe and sustainable oil and gas province and the opportunities that will bring for jobs creation, social infrastructure, strengthening of local communities and broader economic benefit.”

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