Wednesday 8th February 2017
Mr WALSH (Murray Plains) – I rise to make a contribution on the Resources Legislation Amendment (Fracking Ban) Bill 2016. In starting off can I just remind the minister at the table the Minister for Energy Environment and Climate Change – there were two ministers at the table – that it was actually a previous Labor government that issued 73 licences for unconventional gas exploration in Victoria and actually approved 23 fracking permits. So while the minister at the table talks about flip-flopping all over the place it was her party when in government previously that issued those licences so in some ways all it is doing now with this legislation is correcting a mistake it made prior to 2010 when it was last in government. The minister talked about the people in the gallery and about the people in country Victoria but they just do not believe her because her party was the one that actually issued the licences and issued the permits to be in this particular place.
It was actually the Liberal and National parties that introduced legislation to ban benzene toluene ethylbenzene and xylenes (BTEX). You had never ever banned BTEX in this state. It was the Liberal-Nationals coalition that actually put in place the moratorium that you are now talking about legislating for because we wanted to make sure that whatever happened in Victoria we protected the quality and quantity of our groundwater. As the member for Caulfield said in his contribution we understand the importance of the agriculture sector and the food and fibre sector. The Labor Party is a Johnny-come-lately when it talks about support for the agriculture sector. We understand the value of that industry and its exports and how important they are to jobs in regional Victoria.
The Minister for Resources asked the rhetorical question ‘How many farms have you been to?’. My guess would be that the only time the Minister for Resources visits farms is when he wants to hold a press conference and wants to be able to issue a press release saying he was out there. I would hazard a bet that he did not even get any dust or mud on his shoes because he probably hardly got out of the car. You do not have to be out of the car very long to get a photo opportunity or a TV grab and move on again. The Minister for Resources talked about visiting farms but I am sure he did not get much dust or mud let alone any cow manure on his shoes. You would not want the minister to get cow manure on his shoes when he visits a farm.
The minister also talked about the issue of the inquiry by the Legislative Council Standing Committee on the Environment and Planning. The other house made a referral for the committee to do some detailed work on this but what did the government actually do to the committee? They actually starved them of resources. The interim report by that committee said ‘We need the resources and the tools to actually have a proper inquiry’. The government set the inquiry up and then they starved it of resources. As much as I hesitate to quote Samantha Dunn a very good supporter of the Labor Party her comment about the upper house inquiry was that it is disappointing that the government through the Parliament chose not to release the necessary funding and resources to allow this to occur.
The government set up this inquiry but did not actually give the committee the resources. They did not enable the committee to go and look at other jurisdictions to see what happens around conventional gas onshore or unconventional gas onshore. They wanted to starve that committee of resources and they did starve that committee of resources. If they are anywhere near the words they are talking about they would have actually made sure that committee had the resources to do that work.
This piece of legislation as has already been said amends the Mineral Resources (Sustainable Development) Act 1990 to prevent the exploration for and mining of coal seam gas to ban hydraulic fracturing and to enable the minister to pay and surrender certain mining licences exploration licences and retention licences for coal seam gas; and amends the Petroleum Act 1998 to ban hydraulic fracturing to impose a moratorium on petroleum exploration and petroleum production in onshore areas of Victoria until 30 June 2020 and to enable the minister to pay for the surrender of certain exploration permits retention leases and production licences. It also amends the Resources Legislation Amendment (BTEX Prohibition and Other Matters) Act 2014. I think that has been very well and clearly set out.
I note the government’s press release of this morning. The government talks about the opposition putting a press release out this morning almost simultaneously going down those wires to everyone’s email address. I think there were simultaneous press releases but they say that we did not have a press release out last year or the year before or whenever. We both have press releases out this morning.
I remind the Minister for Energy Environment and Climate Change who is the minister at the table that this legislation has sat on the notice paper for months and months. If the government were so committed to doing what they wanted to do this could have been through both houses of Parliament last year but they chose inaction on this particular issue. After two years of inaction I notice in their press release they are now saying they will actually have the chief scientist do some work around conventional gas. As I think the member for Caulfield said we have an energy crisis here in Victoria and it is an energy crisis and a cost crisis that was generated by the Andrews government and particularly by the minister at the table who closed Hazelwood which is pushing up electricity prices.
We know that gas prices are going up. I want to give the minister a couple of examples from my electorate. Kagome is a large food manufacturer in Echuca. Their gas bill this year is going up $1.5 million. That is because of the policies of this current government in Victoria which actually does not have any plan on how they are going to secure the energy supply for Victorian industry in the future. They have political spin but they actually do not have any plan.
The other example I would like to use is Kyvalley milk in Kyabram. Kyvalley is run by the Mulcahy family. They are fourth-generation dairy farmers in that area. There are three families – Peter David and Wayne and their respective families. They are one of the largest family-owned dairy operations here in Victoria. They have actually invested. They have innovated. They are exporting fresh milk to Malaysia and to Singapore. They are doing a fantastic job in doing all the things that we as a Parliament and we as Victorians aspire to. They are taking milk they are value-adding to it and they are sending it overseas to Malaysia in bulk where it is rebottled.
I met with them back in January and their energy bill for electricity has gone up 50 per cent this year. If you put the two together with their network charges and their energy charges they have had a 25 per cent increase in their power bill. That is unsustainable for a business that is exporting. They employ over 100 people in Kyabram. Kyabram is a relatively large country town but 100 jobs in that community is very important and what is driving those electricity price increases is your policy Minister to close Hazelwood. They are saying ‘We actually need a state government here in Victoria that wants to save jobs and wants to protect the jobs’.
The Premier has made a lot of statements about how every job is worth fighting for. It seems to me that those words are empty rhetoric when it comes to jobs in country Victoria. If you look at Kyvalley Dairy they have had a 25 per cent increase in their power bill. If you look at Kagome they have had a $1.5 million increase in their gas bill. That is not how you save jobs Minister – you actually make sure you have a policy rather than spin to make sure they have the energy they need at prices they can afford so they can compete in the export markets. Your policy is about closing down shedding jobs and making sure that people do not have an opportunity to raise a family here in Victoria rather than having sensible economic policies for the future.
Sitting suspended 1.00 p.m. until 2.02 p.m.
Business interrupted under sessional orders.