Environment | February 08, 2017
Resources Legislation Amendment (Fracking Ban) Bill 2016
Victorian Parliament - 8 February 2017 - Ms Kealy - I rise today to add my contribution to the Resources Legislation Amendment (Fracking Ban) Bill 2016. The Nationals position on fracking has always been clear: we will never support any activity that puts our valuable water and land resources at risk. I have been very fortunate to have been elected the member for Lowan, a country electorate where there are fantastic people who you can always have an open conversation with. No matter what their views are, no matter what their backgrounds are, you always have a respectful conversation.
During the preselection period, during the campaign and over the past two years as member for Lowan, I have had the good fortune to meet with many people who have been deeply concerned that Labor’s poor record on fracking in country Victoria would be continued into the future. I fondly remember on one of my mobile office days going to Byaduk, a very small community in the southern area of my electorate in western Victoria. This community had between a dozen and 20 people turn up, and they wanted to speak to me solely about their concerns around fracking in the local region. People in Branxholme have similar concerns, and of course the Glenelg Shire Council put forward a motion regarding banning fracking in that area or unconventional gas in their region, which was unanimously passed.
Today’s legislation will put an end to Labor’s appalling record on its support of the fracking industry, including the reckless approval of 73 unconventional gas exploration licences and 23 fracking permits. It is astonishing to believe that people on any side of politics could somehow try to delete this history and think that they can have the moral high ground, particularly when you consider that those 73 unconventional gas exploration licences and 23 fracking permits were all granted without any consideration, environmental studies, water studies or community consultation. There was no consideration given to the risk to water and land resources.
We have heard from many people on the Labor or government side of the chamber today about how important the food and fibre industry is to regional Victoria and the state. This has not happened overnight. This is not a new industry. I am sure we have all heard the expression ‘Australia rode on the sheep’s back to economic success’. Wool was the main export commodity from 1871 to the 1960s. It was the first major export for Australia. The Nationals understand how important this food and fibre industry is. Again we look back to this record that Labor has and that its members are trying to conveniently forget. It was Labor that approved 73 fracking licences and 23 fracking permits. This cannot be deleted. The reason that my communities are so relieved at this point in time is that Labor members have actually said, ‘You know what? We got this wrong. We didn’t listen to country Victoria. We neglected you’. I am proud to stand with our local people and communities and support this ban on fracking.
I would like to outline our proud record in country Victoria, because I certainly will not back away from it. We will go by evidence, rather than trying to pick and choose what parts we will stand up for. I note that in all their contributions today Labor members have tended to conveniently forget their history of supporting the fracking industry in this state. In 2011 we came into government and we came into a mess, with people in all our country regions concerned about the exploitation of fracking in our regions. We knew we had to move very, very quickly to put an end to that. So in 2012 we rapidly put a moratorium on issuing new exploration licences for unconventional gas, essentially banning fracking in this state.
In 2014 we put forward and passed benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene and xylene legislation to ensure that these dangerous chemicals were not put into the land at all. We also during this time undertook an extensive water and environmental study and undertook one of the biggest community consultations, particularly in the mining industry, that has ever occurred in this state. I know that at least three consultations were held in my region, and certainly it was appreciated by everybody that they could have their say regarding this important industry.
In 2015 we strongly supported and called for an extension of the moratorium. We also supported the inquiry into onshore unconventional gas. I will note at this point that in our amendment to the inquiry we proposed that the inquiry include conventional gas. It is an absolute shame that Labor and the Greens voted against an inquiry being extended to include conventional gas. Now we hear from the government that it is important that we extend the moratorium to 2020 so we can have, basically, an inquiry into conventional gas. Why have those opposite changed their minds so quickly? I hope it is because they have listened to what The Nationals put forward back in 2015.
We also look at the appalling record of how Labor treats country Victorians. It is not just about the 73 unconventional gas exploration licences and the 23 fracking permits with no prior water or environmental studies or community consultation. I noted earlier that there was discussion about supporting investment in country Victoria. Last year less than 3 per cent of the infrastructure budget was spent outside of Melbourne. How on earth can we expect country Victoria to grow and thrive, or even survive, if we do not have key investment in our schools, in our police stations, in our hospitals and in our roads? We simply cannot do that, so if those opposite are serious about this and if they are not all talk, I ask that they take some action and improve that figure.
I have heard from the Premier many times that 9 per cent is not enough for Victoria from the federal government, given we have got 25 per cent of the Australian population. In country Victoria we have got 25 per cent of the Victorian population, so come this year’s budget I would like to see the Premier come through with the goods. I would like to see more than 9 per cent of the infrastructure budget spent on country Victoria if he is true to his word.
There is no plan by Labor to achieve balanced population growth. Of course, if they are not investing in country Victoria, they will not achieve that. They have abandoned country roads. They have scrapped the country roads and bridges program. They have cut hundreds of millions of dollars out of the country roads budget. When we hear of a road announcement in western Victoria, they actually mean Werribee. It is absolutely disgraceful, and our roads are falling apart because of that.
They have scrapped the Regional Victoria Living Expo, a program that was working to attract people from the city to the country, helping to take pressure off our city, balance population growth and stabilise the population in regional Victoria. Unfortunately this government cannot see beyond the tram tracks.
I am pleased and very proud to support this ban on fracking. I am very proud of our community members. I will not name them one by one, because no doubt I will forget somebody, but I thank anyone who has had a quiet one‑on‑one conversation with me, perhaps at Hamilton Sheepvention, perhaps at a community meeting, through social media, over the phone, by letter or by email — whatever it is — and I thank everybody in our local area who has supported and provided that information and feedback to me. I stand with them today to proudly support this ban on fracking.