Election 2016 preview

July 1st, 2016

Saturday’s Federal election will provide a very interesting insight on the truth of claims by activist groups including Lock the Gate and the Greens that they are in lock step with the rural community.

Released this week, the Greens gas policy is simple: a blanket ban on new development of unconventional gas (though its definition of ‘unconventional’ is not at all clear) and the extension of the Commonwealth water trigger to all unconventional gas.

The policy completely ignores the decades long history of safe and successful hydraulic fracturing in Australia.

If the Greens had been successful in achieving this objective three or four years ago, when they started down the path, about 5,000 landholders and their neighbours in southern Queensland would have been denied critical new irrigation water supplies, jobs and infrastructure for their communities, along with the direct financial benefits from hosting gas wells at the same time as they continue their farming activities.

As we have explained previously the ‘water trigger’ policy is also problematic – it is both over-reaching and unnecessary.

Of some concern for the future, this is a policy which has been picked up by the Labor Party as well.

We now have a situation where Federal Labor, a Labor Government in Victoria and Opposition in the Northern Territory, have adopted anti-jobs policies related to natural gas development – despite the fact that the industry has an outstanding record in Australia,  is critical for the nation’s economic wellbeing and that there is no evidence of the ecological doomsday claimed by the Greens and activist groups.

While natural gas development is not a first-tier issue in Saturday’s poll, as this article shows, it is a relevant issue when connected to the Green push for rapid conversion from fossil fuels to renewable sources.

Greens policy stipulates a lightning fast shift to 90% renewables by 2030. Given that taxpayer subsidies of approximately $20 billion have been needed to get the 2-3% renewable energy we currently have, it is going to be a very expensive exercise to get to 90%.  And we still do not have a satisfactory answer to the question of how to keep the power on when the sun is not shining and the wind is not blowing.

Labor leader Bill Shorten came up close to the related issue of consumer willingness to pay the subsidy or sacrifice the living standards associated with doing away with fossil fuel power.

During a campaign event on Labor’s climate change policy, the first question asked by a journalist was could Mr Shorten guarantee that Labor’s policies federally would not lead to the same consequence as in South Australia and overseas, where mandated renewables had led to rising prices for consumers.

Unsurprisingly, Mr Shorten gave no such guarantee.  What’s more, he made no attempt to answer the question at all, preferring to talk about how Labor would encourage greater investment in renewables.

At the pointy end of the election energy debate, the gas industry will be watching closely the results in northern NSW.

At the last NSW poll, the Greens and enviro-political activists put enormous energy into campaigning against National Party MPs, primarily for supporting proposed coal or coal-seam gas developments, or both.

The vigorous and aggressive campaigning had some impact in north coastal electorates  (where many NSW activists outside Sydney live).

However, it had little or no impact in seats close to proposed natural gas developments in the Upper Hunter and north-west, near Narrabri, as we noted at the time.

So the results in Saturday’s election will be a poll on resources development – specifically in the seats in north-western NSW and in south-western Queensland, where the coal seam gas industry has been operating in recent years.


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