What we know
The state government’s promised Inquiry into Unconventional Gas has now been formally announced, with broad terms of reference (TOR). The final TOR will be determined by the committee. Significantly, it is a cross party committee (the Environment and Planning References Committee from the Legislative Council [Upper House]). The Chair is a Liberal (David Davis), and there is one National (Melinda Bath), one Green (Samantha Dunn), three from the ALP (Gayle Tierney, Harriet Shing, Shaun Leane), an additional MP from the Liberals (Richard Dalla-Riva), and one MP from the Shooters Party (Daniel Young).
Work started by the previous government, into water tables and the community consultation process run by the Primary Agency, will be released as part of the inquiry. The moratorium on CSG exploration will stay in place until the inquiry delivers its findings.
The interim report is due in September and the final report by December. Parliament will then need to consider the recommendations of the committee and make a final decision about how to proceed. This is likely to happen when parliament resumes after the summer break, in early 2016.
What we want
This is ultimately a political rather than technical issue, with the state government needing to decide whether to allow the industry to proceed. The committee can recommend this, or recommend a ban or extend the moratorium, but the Andrews government will need to take the final decision.
Our aim is to:
- demonstrate that the UCG industry does not have social license to operate in Victoria,
- build the case to ensure the state government realises that an onshore UCG industry will be negative for Victoria in environmental, social and economic terms,
- build the political will for the government to rule out any development of the industry here. We need to make sure this is supported by the other Parties, especially the Coalition, as the ALP does not have control of the Upper House.
What we need to do
Have a think about what experts you want to put forward to the Inquiry. These might be experts that you have met or seen in the media or at meetings, or simply someone from your community who knows about ground water. It might be you. Please feel free to forward their details to us (firstname.lastname@example.org) outlining their name, contact details, location, and area of specialty and we will submit a comprehensive list to the committee.
We need to make sure we get good turn outs at all hearings. We will send details as we get them.
We will need locals to write submissions. Once hearings get underway, we will circulate some ‘talking points’ for people to use.
We need to be active inside and outside the process. Its important we keep busy during the hearings in the outside world: letters to the editor, call ins to radio stations, etc. If you’re a member of a group, consider holding a public event between June and September. This could be a forum, film night, a rally, a reaffirmation of your community declaration, etc. The more public the better.
Mobilise new voices
Have a think about who in your community has not yet got vocal on the issue. This might be a local government councillor (or mayor!), local rural contractors, the owners of local tourist operators (eg a B&B), someone from small business (owners or operators of your local hardware or farm supplies store), etc. Are there any well known people from your region? Could you approach them and ask them to come out and speak their mind?
Who hasn’t been fully mobilised yet:
- church and faith groups
- recreational fishing groups
- horse riding groups
- landcare groups
- school kids
- social welfare groups (if UCG gets established and impacts on local communities, it will be these services who pick up the pieces)
- local health professionals
Build political will
The decision to ban drilling is essentially up to the state government. But we need to keep the pressure on so that all political parties support them in doing so. Apart from the Liberals and Nationals, we should ensure that local groups visit the micro party MPs. We will need all the small parties on board in the Upper House – Shooters, Sex, DLP and Local Jobs First.
Build power in the suburbs
We have been winning because regional communities have got organised. To completely finish the industry off we need to greatly increase our efforts in metro areas, in Melbourne and Geelong in particular.
Sign our petition
Our aim is to produce a new state-wide petition that calls on the Victorian parliament to rule out any new greenfield development of coal and gas in the state. We will aim to deliver this to parliament as soon as the draft report is tabled in Parliament. This will be launched shortly.
Keep in touch via Coal and Gas Free Victoria Website and Facebook page. There will be regular updates.