Not a majority in anyone’s book

August 10th, 2016

Victorian activist groups are up to their old tricks again, less than a fortnight out from an expected announcement from the Energy Minister Wade Noonan on the future of the state’s moratorium on unconventional gas development.

According to research commissioned by Friends of the Earth, ‘88% of Victorians are concerned about onshore gas, and the majority support a ban.’

FoE go on to claim that The ReachTel poll found 86% of those surveyed expressed concern about the impacts of onshore gas and fracking on water systems and farming lands, with 55% supporting a permanent ban on the industry. Less than 10% opposed a permanent ban.

What FoE’s media release failed to mention was that the ReachTel survey polled only 1,137 people out of a total Victorian population of almost six million people – in other words, those polled represent less than 0.020% of the total population.

Their claim of ‘majority support’ for a ban starts to look more than a little shaky when put into that context – in effect, they found around 650 people who answered an unspecified (and in all likelihood, emotively worded) question about a ban on unconventional gas development.

Apart from not releasing the questions, there’s also no detail on where the miniscule sample size reside – a variable that can significantly skew results.

The other stunt from the activist playbook that was rolled out this week was the manufactured photo event held outside Government offices in Melbourne to deliver a list of communities who had declared themselves ‘gasfield free’.

Putting aside the futility of turning up demanding to see a Minister without an appointment, let’s take a look at the veracity of the ‘gasfield free’ declarations.

As we’ve reported before, these surveys – which are based on a guide produced by Lock the Gate – will invariably return a majority result because of the way the questions are framed.

None of the results of the surveys are ever independently verified, so all the results need to be taken with more than a grain of salt.

In some instances, there have been cases of activist groups using survey results to pressure local councils into declaring local bans on gas development – even in areas where there is no gas.

It’s also important to note that the ‘gasfield free’ declarations carry no weight in a planning or permitting sense, as those powers lie with State and Federal Governments.

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