Unlikely friends allied against fracking
The Conservation Council and One Nation have joined forces to call for a ban on fracking in WA.
The recently-elected Labor Government said it would ban fracking in the South West, the Peel Region and Perth Metropolitan Area, and inquire into the impacts of the gas extraction process.
Piers Verstegen of the Conservation Council now wants to the Government to back up its pre-election claims.
“We had a Labor Government come to power with strong policies and strong commitments,” he told the ABC.
“It's very important that the Government's commitment to banning fracking in key areas are put in legislation. Without legislation, those bans can be overturned with the strike of a pen by a minister or a new government.”
Mr Verstegen warned that the Government may allow exploration for ‘unconventional gas’ in areas where fracking is banned.
“Unconventional gas means fracking, so if you're going to allow for exploration for that resource — in an area where fracking is banned — it doesn't make sense,” he said.
Mr Verstegen said any fracking would harm the environment and public health.
The Conservation Council wants a much wider ban, something One Nation’s upper house member for the South West, Colin Tincknell, supports.
“Labor should legislate to ban fracking in all productive farmland,” he said.
“We're talking places like the Agricultural Region, the South West and possibly even some parts of the mining and pastoral areas.
“They admit to about a 5 or 6 per cent fail rate and that's unacceptable for productive farmland — once you've ruined the property or ruined the waterways, that could be irretrievable.
“One of our most precious resources is water, we can't play around with that.
“We're generally in favour of resources, we want this great resource state to continue — but when there's unsafe behaviour, we can't allow that to continue.”
Mining and Petroleum Minister Bill Johnston said no permits for fracking had been issued since the election.
“There are no applications for fracking in the rest of the state so it's not an issue at this stage but if there was to be an application we wouldn't allow it at the moment,” he said.
“Effectively there's a moratorium for the rest of the state and the Labor Party is fully implementing our election commitment.”
Mr Johnston said current legislation allowed him to ban fracking in certain places, and no new legislation is needed.
“We are looking at further measures but we have already banned fracking in the Perth Metropolitan area, the Peel region in the South West, exactly as we said we would,” he said.
The Government is soon to announce an inquiry to examine the environment, health, agriculture and community impacts of fracking.
Mr Johnston says that even if the inquiry calls for more fracking, the existing ban will remain.