Nationals score Own Goal in response to unconventional gas motion


November 14, 2013

Friends of the Earth media release

Yesterday Victorian Greens leader Greg Barber introduced a motion to the Upper House, which called for a permanent ban on the coal seam gas (CSG) industry in Victoria.

The motion was shot down by members of the Liberal and National parties—even those who represent farming districts.

“The refusal of Coalition members to support the motion to protect farming communities from the threat of unconventional gas was not surprising. What was striking was the glowing endorsement of the CSG industry by Nationals MP Damian Drum” said Friends of the Earth co-ordinator Cam Walker.

Mr Drum said that he had travelled to Queensland earlier in the year to investigate the coal seam gas industry.

He said ''we [spoke] to 10 different organisations and we didn't find one person with a negative view on coal seam gas.”

“Given the astonishing level of opposition to the unconventional gas industry across Queensland and NSW, this is a brave statement from an MP of a Party that claims to represent the interests of regional Australians.”

“If Mr Drum is prepared to be toured by the mining industry, he should at least have the decency to meet some of the many local groups opposed to, and negatively impacted by, the CSG industry.”

With dozens of people from Gippsland in the public gallery, it was left to Nationals MP Damian Drum to respond to the Greens motion.

“Although there are coal reserves in northern Victoria, there is no obvious exploration activity there at present. It was a much safer option to have Mr Drum front the crowd than to have the Nationals Leader in the Council respond, who is from Eastern Victoria”.

“Was this an attempt to test the message that the Nationals will consider supporting an onshore gas industry? In the debate, Mr Drum said that if the science came in ''with a positive slant'' the government could move forward and lift the current moratorium on fracking. This is hardly an encouraging message for regional communities who are rightly concerned about the threat of new fossil fuel projects.”

“The Nationals pride themselves on being the voice for regional Australia, yet the Party risks some significant brand damage if Mr Drum’s pro-industry line is not balanced by a strong intervention by others in the Party. Mr Drum went as far as to suggest that there are no environmental problems associated with the industry, and that opposing its development in Victoria would be to ‘deny our communities benefits, including road upgrades … or airports’. Silence can only mean others in the Party also believe the gas industry line that was trotted out in Parliament yesterday”.

Further comment
Cam Walker
0419 338 047