Lazarus unconventional gas inquiry needs to hear from industry
April 1st, 2016
Comment by ERIC Director Steve Wright
The next hearing of the Lazarus inquiry into unconventional gas will either be a case of ‘third time lucky’ or ‘three strikes – you’re out’.
The inquiry has had two days of hearings – in Queensland (a month ago) and New South Wales (this week) – and so far, not a word from the industry has been heard.
This silly situation is on the verge of becoming full farce. If the committee does not give the industry an opportunity to speak when it conducts a hearing in Darwin, anticipated in the next few weeks, it will have been a total waste of time and taxpayers’ money.
The Northern Territory is almost totally reliant on natural gas for its power, in Darwin and regional centres. Darwin LNG has been a big contributor to the NT economy, providing royalties, employment and export income to the NT for many years. To fail to invite the views of the industry in the NT would be an indictment of the Committee and its commitment to genuine inquiry.
As we have noted previously, the first hearing in Dalby was no more than a cavalcade of activist dogma – much of it having been shown in the past to be untrue or grossly overblown.
Despite the successful operation of the natural gas industry in Queensland the Lazarus committee apparently considered it unnecessary to seek the views of the industry in Dalby.
This week it made it two strikes, showing no interest in industry presentation its hearing in Narrabri, in northern NSW.
In fact, the committee seriously rankled locals in Narrabri by failing to invite the views of the Shire Council or any other local authority.
Were it not for the personal initiative of the local mayor and head of the chamber of commerce, there would have been no voice other than the very familiar activist groups Lock The Gate, the Wilderness Society, the Pilliga Push and so on.
You can read more about what happened at the Narrabri hearing here.
You will see the local project operator Santos was not invited to speak at the hearing. Nor was the industry representative group APPEA, whose submission to the inquiry has not even been uploaded to the inquiry website, several weeks after having been lodged.
But there may be one very good reason the committee did not want to hear from Santos. The inquiry is looking into unconventional gas extraction, and Santos has been clear from the start that the Narrabri resource is conventional; that is hydraulic fracturing (the element which defines unconventional gas extraction) will not be necessary.
So the committee travelled to NSW to hear activist protests about a proposed development that is actually outside the remit of the inquiry.
To further underline the obvious negative intention of this committee, appreciate this: the Senate committee had no time to hear from local authorities (who actually support the proposed development) in Narrabri but it did have time to hear from several protesters who travelled hundreds of kilometres south from the very area of Queensland the committee had conducted its first day of hearings a month earlier. So, no unconventional gas to speak of, no time for industry or supportive local authorities, but time to hear from the same shrill voices which marked the earlier hearing, in another State. Taxpayers and the Narrabri people deserved better.
If the same pattern occurs in Darwin, this committee will have had three strikes and badly wasted an opportunity to help people learn and better understand natural gas extraction, including the engineering process of hydraulic fracturing, which has been safely and successfully used by Santos in South Australia since the 1960s.