Activists and Greens MP miss the mark in attacks on WA/NSW gas

April 17th, 2015

Commentary on the results of the NSW election continues to be off target in regard to the issue of natural gas extraction.  And gas critics in WA are falling for the same activist misinformation.

The latest misfire in NSW is by Greens MP Jeremy Buckingham, who says the gas industry “has been comprehensively rejected by voters…”  in the NSW election.

Yes, the environmental lobby did rally anti-coal-seam gas sentiment in inner Sydney and two north coastal seats, but it had little impact in the areas where preliminary work for natural gas extraction is actually underway — at Narribri (Northern NSW) and Gloucester (Hunter region).

Nationals MPs in seats encompassing and adjacent to those areas not only emerged from the aggressive campaigning unscathed, some increased their vote.  Also, Nationals MP George Thomas retained his seat in Lismore, despite a spiteful and personal campaign which included a pile of manure being dumped on the pavement outside his office.  Nationals MPs Kevin Anderson (Tamworth), Stephen Bromhead (Myall Lakes) and Michael Johnsen (Upper Hunter) were all comfortably returned.

NSW Farmers Federation president Fiona Simson seems to agree. She has been quoted as saying that coal seam gas was not a big issue in regional areas other than in two seats on the north coast – one of which was Lismore.

Compare Ms Simson’s conclusion to the assertion by activist Phil Laird, of Lock The Gate, who claimed a “statewide” impact and that the returned Government had “a mandate” to prohibit development of natural gas.    This from an organisation which says it is in lock-step with the farming community.

Lock The gate and other environmental groups such as the WA Conservation Council have made much of their supposed close alliance with the farming community.   It is not surprising they have influence some with their dramatic claims about the destruction of the land and the supposed poisoning of the water.

Jim Clarke appears to be a WA farmer who has made the mistake of looking at the activist claims with eyes wide shut.

Mr Clarke’s opinion piece in The West Australian newspaper  features the very type of misinformation raised by Cabinet Minister Bill Marmion in his recent article in The West.

Mr Clarke argues hundreds of wells are needed for an onshore unconventional gas field and uses a picture to illustrate the claim.  Having been taken some time ago in a place some significant distance away, the picture has little relevance in the current Mid-West gas context.

Latest engineering techniques allow operators to use a single well pad to drill numerous ‘directional’ holes, so many fewer pads are necessary.

Much of the gas in the Perth Basin comes from conventional reservoirs which require no hydraulic fracturing — the process identified as some sort of bogey, depsite the fact it has been safely used for decades in Australia and overseas — indeed, since the 1960s in South Australia.

Mr Clarke’s comments about ABC attempts to film a meeting were also wide of the mark.  Yes, the crew was asked not to film the discussion, but it was the steering committee (selected by the community) of the Community Reference Group which made that call — and did so well before the meeting.  The ABC crew turned up regardless and tried to film events, ignoring the will of the community representatives, consequently delaying the meeting for 90 minutes and inconveniencing everyone present.

The decision was not undemocratic; it was the right of the elected community member representatives to make that choice  — without being denigrated for it.

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