When all else fails, activists accuse again

June 2nd, 2017

A tried and true activist tactic was on full display this week, with activist groups in the Northern Territory calling into question the credentials of a leading economics consultancy.

ACIL Allen Consulting has been appointed by the Territory’s independent Scientific Inquiry into Hydraulic Fracturing to look at the economic impact of allowing fracking in the Top End – a practice that will unlock the fledgling shale gas industry, and in doing so deliver millions of dollars of royalties and creating jobs.

The terms of reference for ACIL Allen’s engagement are wide ranging:

“The economic assessment to be undertaken by ACIL Allen is a wide ranging study focussing on the actual and potential direct and indirect economic benefits, impacts and risks of hydraulic fracturing for onshore shale gas development in the Northern Territory under the current regulatory regime.

ACIL Allen must consider the following scenarios in making the assessment:

Scenario 1, or the baseline scenario, where the moratorium on hydraulic fracturing of unconventional shale gas reservoirs remains in place;

Scenario 2, which involves the development of the onshore unconventional shale gas industry in the Northern Territory; and

Scenario 3, which involves the development of unconventional shale gas reservoirs in the Beetaloo sub-basin only.

ACIL Allen will also be required to liaise with a wide range of stakeholders in the Northern Territory to consider the impacts of onshore unconventional shale gas development on other industries, such as, tourism, agriculture, horticulture and pastoral”

The last paragraph is the critical part of the engagement – providing the Inquiry with a view on the potential impacts of the gas industry on other industries.

But that’s not enough for activists. Million dollar protest group Lock the Gate was quick to criticise the appointment, claiming a conflict of interest because the company has previously done work for the gas industry – something that was presumably a prerequisite for this job.

Lock the Gate went on to include a quote from their favoured tame think tank, The Australia Institute, who called for some sort of panel to oversee ACIL Allen’s work.

Presumably, in the eyes of The Australia Institute, that panel should feature them and some handpicked opponents of the industry.

The faux outrage expressed by the activist community over the appointment of a firm which has extensive experience not only in the gas industry but also in a range of policy areas affecting the Northern Territory is not unexpected.

The Inquiry will be well served by ACIL Allen – a much better choice for objective analysis than the groups preferred by Lock the Gate!

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